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Hands-On With The HTC Vive

Exploring The Ocean Depths

In this demo, I found myself standing on the deck of a sunken ship. Initially, my mind questioned how I was able to be underwater and still breathe. While I soon suspended my disbelief, I do think it would have felt even more realistic if there was some simulation of wearing scuba gear. Your vision when using the Vive already has that appearance, so why not add some audio and visual cues to this one demo to further that illusion?

In spite of that, I still found myself in awe of the virtual world in front of me. There were fish swimming by, and I was able to reach out and swat at the smaller ones in front of me, which caused them to quickly dart away from my hand. The graphical fidelity of this demo (which was the TheBluVR: Encounter VR demo by WEVR) was very good – almost photo-realistic, which you can see in the screenshot below.

I was also able to move around the deck of the ship, and while the space available was dictated by the 15 x 15-foot playing area, I didn’t feel constrained in the environment. The area available to me made sense within the context of this demo. I walked over to the railing of the ship and looked down into the depths and could see a crashed airplane below. I then turned around and walked back along the deck until I reached some broken deck machinery, which blocked my way since it was the edge of the playing space.

One thing that did seem off to me, and did briefly break my suspension of disbelief, is that when I looked straight down I had no body or feet (flippers?). However, in order to incorporate an accurate representation of your body when you look down, the Vive would have to somehow track your feet, too, so they appear in the digital space where they are in reality. Perhaps the camera on the front of the Vive could help achieve that.

It was then that my VR Master (the HTC demo rep) suggested that I turn around so as not to miss what is the star of this demo’s show. I did, and found myself face-to-face with a huge whale that was swimming by way too close for comfort. As it swam by me, I found myself staring it to its huge, extremely life-like eye, and it was at this moment that I was completely sold on this demo. It honestly did feel like I was looking at a living creature staring right back at me, and it was slightly unnerving.

As the baleen behemoth continued to swim by, one of its massive flippers passed over my head and I instinctively ducked. Then as it was about to leave, it flicked its humongous tail down which caused me to jump back out of the way, both in fear and awe. The sheer wonder of just this one moment had me laughing with joy. By the end of this demo, I was already complete sold on Valve’s and HTC’s VR vision, and I wasn’t even halfway through was I was going to see.

  • CaedenV
    It is going to be pretty hard to figure out which VR headset to pick up next year. First I need to get a newer GPU to drive one though... no way my old GTX570 is going to be pushing two 1200p+ displays, especially at 90Hz lol.
    Reply
  • vertigo_2000
    I'm sold, take my money.
    Reply
  • spladam
    You cried? They moved you to tears with this tech? It sounds cool, but how do you know you are not still in VR?
    Reply
  • zerghumper
    Ok here's my question and no article on the Vive / Valve VR that I've read so far has answered it:

    Will games have to be written from the ground up to support the Vive, or like the Oculus Rift, can support be modded into a game? I know most of the features Vive brings to the table wouldn't be supported, but what about head-tracking? This is the one reason this decision is so difficult for me. I keep seeing developers being blown away by the Vive, but I wonder, will I be able to use it to go play minecraft, STALKER, Alien Isolation, and other games that already do support the Oculus?

    Either way this future excites me and I can't wait to see what games get made with this system in mind!
    Reply
  • DelightfulDucklings
    The main thing I want to know is if there will be a Vive that excludes the movement sensors as I personally don't have the space where my PC is setup to stand up and move around at all so I will be only able to sit. I'm sure they must have thought of this but I just haven't seen it mentioned much
    Reply
  • Hector M Torres
    Sitting inside a giant MecWarrior or flying a Space Fighter ( with simulated full 360 degree range of view/movement will be awesome ) , Tank battles , flying Jet fighters, i can see a few great games made so much better with this new tech,I can't wait !
    Reply
  • alex davies
    Ok here's my question and no article on the Vive / Valve VR that I've read so far has answered it:

    Will games have to be written from the ground up to support the Vive, or like the Oculus Rift, can support be modded into a game? I know most of the features Vive brings to the table wouldn't be supported, but what about head-tracking? This is the one reason this decision is so difficult for me. I keep seeing developers being blown away by the Vive, but I wonder, will I be able to use it to go play minecraft, STALKER, Alien Isolation, and other games that already do support the Oculus?

    Either way this future excites me and I can't wait to see what games get made with this system in mind!

    The Vive use's Valve's SteamVR platform, which is a set of APIs that any developer can support in their games, and any or all aspects of the platform can be incorporated. So if there is a game that just needs to use the Vive's head-tracking feature, there is no reason a developer can't just support that one feature.

    From what I understand the Vive is the first of hopefully many solutions built on SteamVR. There may be different versions of the Vive from HTC themselves (such as a kit without the controllers etc.), or there may be cheaper headsets from other manufacturers that are built on SteamVR.

    Either way, I think if one is questioning if games that currently support Oculus now will also support SteamVR in the future, I would say most definitely. That is, other than platform exclusives, which there surely will be a few of -- for example, I'm pretty sure EVE: Valkyrie will be Oculus and Morpheus only.
    Reply
  • alex davies
    The main thing I want to know is if there will be a Vive that excludes the movement sensors as I personally don't have the space where my PC is setup to stand up and move around at all so I will be only able to sit. I'm sure they must have thought of this but I just haven't seen it mentioned much

    I'm sure there'll either be a Vive starter kit minus the controllers, or another OEM will partner with Valve to make an entry-level SteamVR headset for sit down only gaming experiences.
    Reply
  • gaborbarla
    Interesting read Alex, I think now you need to quickly go and test the latest version of Oculus and give us feedback on it. I have disappointing review of the Vive before and glad to hear that you found the opposite. I really want this technology to succeed and we need fast and accurate tracking, high Hz, Hi-res screens, and no motion sickness. From your article it seems like they are on track with achieving this. Hope they don't scale it down due to commercial reasons. I rather spend 500-1000USD and get something decent. Anyways a comparison to the competitors from your perspective would be great. If I remember correctly the Vive requires some sensors/reflectors to be installed in the room where you use it which is something that we can get rid of eventually for sure.
    Reply
  • cats_Paw
    Ill wait untill there is a comparison by someone who I can call unbiased (dont know this reviewr, but Id better make sure).
    I will buy a VR, no doubt, but want the best one, even if I have to overpay a bit.
    I want to run it at high fps, no motion sickness, etc etc etc.
    Then I will fire up crysis for my unsuspecting new lady friend :D.
    Reply