All About the HTC Vive Virtual Reality Headset

Explore Virtual Spaces with this High End Headset.

HTC Vive Virtual Reality Headset

If you've heard rumblings about virtual-reality (VR) devices like the HTC Vive and the Oculus but haven't dug too deep since they've seemed far off, now's a good time to take a closer look. The HTC Vive will be up for pre-orders on February 29, 2016, and while the price is still unknown, it's awesome that consumers will soon have a chance to experience virtual reality up close and personal. Read on for the full lowdown on this product and others like it!

The HTC Vive

Like most other VR devices, the HTC Vive consists of a head-mounted display that puts digital content in front of your eyes for an immersive experience. Wearing the head-mounted display should give you a 360-degree experience; thanks to its partnership with game developer Valve, HTC features technology that lets you walk around and explore a space, complete with scale so objects seem correctly proportioned from every angle.

There's a headphone jack on the side of the headset that lets you plug in your own headphones to enjoy the sound that goes along with the visuals.

Plus, since virtual reality often goes hand in hand with gaming, the HTC Vive will include wireless controllers that help you interact with the virtual environment in front of your eyes. The controllers are two separate handheld pieces, with just a few buttons on each, so gameplay should be relatively straightforward, which is hugely important when you have a headset attached to your face and can't look down to orient yourself with the controls.

One of the downsides of the HTC Vive headset, which boasts a video frame rate of 90 frames per second, is that it requires a rather sophisticated PC to use. Since this device has a strong gaming and graphics focus, you need a machine that can help deliver all those visuals. 

The Competition

As far as competitors in this space go, the most obvious one is the Oculus Rift. This device is also a head-mounted VR headset, and it's made the trade show circuit in the form of developer kits over the last few years. (The company, Oculus, was also bought by Facebook, so there's that.)

Unlike the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift includes built-in headphones, and in its upcoming package, it will ship along with an Xbox controller, a sensor, and a microphone. Additional controllers that are said to offer a more intuitive experience should be available sometime this year as well.

One of the biggest differences between the two devices is that the Oculus Rift is intended more for sit-down gaming and other experiences, while the HTC Vive seems to be more tailor-made for games and simulations that require you to walk around and explore a room or other virtual space. 

Recently, it was announced that the Oculus Rift would be available for anyone to order, albeit at the high price of $599. It will start shipping on March 28, 2016.

While it's not a competitor in any real sense, it's also worth mentioning one (likely) much cheaper option: the Samsung Gear VR. This head-mounted display works with select Samsung smartphones, so you don't need a computer to experience VR. The downside is that graphics and the overall experience will be less powerful and immersive than something like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

The State of Virtual Reality

With devices that were previously limited to developer kits finally reaching consumers, albeit at very steep prices,  it's clear that virtual reality is starting to take off. We've seen plenty of gaming demos that make it clear that VR offers an immersive (if often dizzying) experience, but these products are also finding use cases among the medical community, where their features are ideal for simulations of surgery and treatment scenarios. Stay tuned for more developments in 2016.