The HTC Vive was one of this Spring's biggest surprises in the technology world. Until the Vive appeared, many thought that Facebook's Oculus Rift would be the one to dominate the PC virtual reality gaming market, while Sony's Project Morpheus would be (at least for now) the main VR headset for the console gaming world.
The Vive, which Valve helped create, managed to make a strong entrance because Valve is not quite new at virtual reality. The company has been researching advanced VR technologies for almost as long as Oculus has. In some ways, Valve has even been ahead of Oculus, because its goal was to research VR beyond Oculus Rift's capabilities in order to see what would be possible tomorrow, not today.
Valve's advanced VR technology was recently proven with the introduction of the HTC Vive. The headset managed to impress many, including our own Rexly Peñaflorida, who had this to say after his hands-on with it:
“Throughout this week at GDC, I've tried numerous VR devices, including MindMaze's MindLeap, Razer's OSVR, Sulon's Cortex, Sony's Morpheus, and Crytek's Dinosaur Island demo on Oculus' Crescent Bay. Each one displayed its own strengths in the VR field, but none came close to the experience that Vive offered. The images were beautiful and the interactions were nearly flawless. Like most of the VR devices, there's still a lot of work to be done before Vive gets into the consumers' hands, but it definitely has a leg up from the rest of the competition."
Even if the HTC Vive is currently the most advanced VR headset on the market, it will probably also cost more than the Oculus Rift. Unlike the Oculus Rift, the Vive comes with two high-quality controllers as well as high-precision sensors and two screens inside the headset (one for each eye). These factors could potentially increase the price significantly.
On top of this, Oculus has already managed to attract most of the early adopter developers, both small and big, convincing them to make games that are optimized for the Oculus headset. Therefore, the window of opportunity for the HTC Vive is rapidly closing, and both HTC and Valve need to find as many developers as possible to optimize their games for the Vive as well. However, with a potentially higher price point (which is still undisclosed) and a few months until the headset will be launched, HTC and Valve needed to come up with a solution to attract developers quickly.
This is why the two companies are now offering select developers, who will be pre-approved, free Vive Developer Edition headsets. Valve also said on its VR page that the Developer Edition "comes with a headset, two controllers and two base stations -- everything you need to dive in and start creating new interactive VR experiences."
Vive Developer Edition headsets will be available this Spring, ahead of the big consumer launch later this year.