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Hands-On With The HTC Vive

What Is Valve And HTC’s Secret Sauce?

Quite simply, when using the Vive, the level of immersion is unparalleled. It is the first VR system to offer the feeling of what is termed "constant presence." The more senses a VR system can completely fool into thinking that you’re somewhere else, the more your brain subconsciously perceives it as reality. From what I understand from others who have used them, competing VR systems are also able to provide the same level of presence that the Vive does, but it is often only fleeting. Restrictions in the range of movement or issues with the accuracy and latency of head tracking quickly snap your mind out of this feeling, back to the reality that you are just wearing a headset and staring into a screen.

When I used Vive, this didn’t happen to me once. From the moment I put on the headset and was handed the controllers until the end of the demo, I simply felt like I was somewhere else at all times. This is what I mean by constant presence. Vive can achieve this is due to a combination of a number of factors.

To start, the Vive’s head tracking, using the laser Lighthouse base stations, is incredibly solid. It didn’t glitch once in the time I demoed it. They are also able to track 360-degrees of movement because there are two at opposite corners of the room. Along with this solid head tracking (which, from what I understand, the Oculus’ Crescent Bay is also capable off), the Vive adds the just-as-solid 360-degree tracking of your hands’ movements by precisely tracking its controllers. In addition, their advanced haptic feedback adds another layer of immersion.

On top of that is the freedom of movement that the 15 x 15-foot space offers you. Being able to move around the game space with your body as you would in reality instead of having to push a button on a controller or keyboard makes a huge difference as to how your mind perceives the virtual space you are in.

Finally, the Vive instills a sense of confidence in you with the precision of its tracking and the way that it controls you movements within the virtual space to make sure you don’t actually walk into a real wall.The glowing grid that appears in front of you in the virtual world when you are near a real wall lets you know when to stop. Knowing the system is monitoring your position like this gives you the confidence to freely explore the virtual space without any fears.

Right now, the only impediments to total immersion are the cables that tether you to the system, but in my time with the Vive I hardly noticed them. The final developer version will only have wireless controllers, with just one cable from the headset, which should be a lot easier to manage.

  • 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