Oculus were one of the main companies innovating virtual reality technology, yet much of the buzz around this new media platform comes thanks to the HTC Vive. We have experienced the Vive first hand and here’s what we think.
Background of the HTC Vive
Many of you will be more than familiar with Taiwanese manufacturer, HTC. They have been a leading smartphone manufacturer for years. Recently, their handsets have widely been considered brilliant though often lacking in ground-breaking innovation. Many believe this has been caused by HTC’s shift in focus towards virtual reality through the Vive project in 2015. One of the most exciting aspects of the Vive’s development is HTC’s partnership with Steam, combining one of the world’s most innovative virtual reality headsets with the world’s leading gaming provider.
Technology of the Vive
In an ever-growing market of virtual reality the Vive manages to set itself apart from competitors with several key innovations.
We are massive fans of the Oculus powered Samsung Gear VR and truly believe it is arguably the best starter virtual reality headset for Samsung owners at least. The Gear VR relies upon your smartphone screen to power what you see, but the Vive instead boasts two 1080×1200 screens, one per eye. These displays are also capable of a 90 Hz refresh rate ensuring the visual experience is second to none and extremely realistic to the user.
Before getting hands on with the Vive, we thought the controllers were a bit silly. We believed virtual reality shouldn’t require additional peripherals and to have them would simply destroy the feeling of being in the game. How wrong we were. The Vive’s dual controllers connect the user to the virtual world in a way we’ve never seen before and are extremely intuitive, while remaining comfortable to use.
Room scaling is one of the biggest innovations the Vive makes. Room scaling involves the Vive using two external sensors to allocate a 6.5ft x 5ft area within which the user can move around. This allows for amazing immersive experiences with the headset on.
The Vive Headset
First impressions of the Vive headset were that it was bigger than most others we were familar with. Rather surprising was how comfortable the headset was to wear. Fortunately, considering the quality of the gaming experience, extended periods of gaming with the Vive shouldn’t be hindered by the hardware.
Should you be near sighted, long sights or wish to game wearing glasses, the Vive will suit your needs. There are several aspects of the viewpoint you can adjust and also plenty of space to wear glasses too. There are some cables you should be wary of stepping on, but you will fast become accustomed to avoiding these.
Games on Vive
Though the HTC Vive has just launched, the partnership with Steam and early developer access to the headset have ensured there are already over one hundred titles available from launch, with a limited number of experiences shipping with early retail orders. We got to try out two of the three games you might pick up with the Vive as well as game developing a cult following.
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
On paper this should be simply terrible. Based in the future, Job Simulator is a teaching tool for the people of 2050 to experience the mundane jobs that we all do today. We got to experience an office and from within our cubicle, got to enjoy a vast array of interactions with the surrounding world.
The funny thing about virtual reality is how simple and mundane tasks can actually be rather entertaining with a VR headset on. The controllers performed brilliantly within the immersive world as everything we could think of worked. This highlighted to us the challenges that game developers face, as users can and will try everything and anything in a virtual world. Once something doesn’t work the way it does in the real world, the immersive experience shatters around the user. Fortunately, this was not an issue for Job Simulator, which has already positioned itself as one of the most enjoyable and must-have experiences for the HTC Vive.
Google Tilt Brush
Virtual reality has this amazing ability to make something look boring on screen, yet simply stunning to experience yourself. Tilt Brush is the modern day Microsoft Paint. The world around you becomes a blank canvas, with your dual controllers becoming your brush and palette. You can draw, design, built and create your way through any idea you can think off. The potential held within Tilt Brush is nothing short of staggering as we already imagine crossing something like this with 3D printing to develop next level prototyping.
Imgur user minordespera has shared some brilliant examples of Tilt Brush drawing.
Of course, with immersive experiences, being terrified is ultimately what we were after. Brookhaven Experiment is still only available as a demo, but is already one of the greatest virtual reality experiences we have come across. This wave survival based first person shooter is a combination of terrifying and immersive perfection. One of the best parts of the game was when one hand got tired firing the gun. When swapping the gun and torch, it didn’t feel like I was swapping controllers, instead genuinely feeling like it was the items from the game.
You wake up on a small plot of land, conveniently sized the same as HTC’s room scaling. From here you will first hear movements in the bushes. Armed only with a handgun and torch, it’s best you resist temptation to start unloading rounds into the darkness. Within moments zombie-esque creatures approach you at varying speeds. You’ll quickly learn that it’s best you wait for them to get closer before trying to hit them. This is what makes the game so exciting. You “enjoy” a full 360 range of view, and while turning can access which creature is closest and in need of your attention next. While this is terrifying, it heightens your odds of survival.
As the game goes on, your torch runs out of battery, your gun runs out of ammunition but the game certainly does not run out of creatures with your only goal being to survive as many waves as possible before your inevitable death. A cheery experience to say the least. The full game is due to be available on June 22nd and can be purchased right now for just €14.99 through steam where you can also get the demo.
HTC Vive: The verdict
The HTC Vive is expected to launch in Ireland in the next few months and you can expect a retail price of around €900. You will also need a fairly powerful computer meaning that this is an expensive gaming device if you need to get set up from scratch. It’s easy to refuse to look further than the retail price VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR, but in truth the two devices are world’s apart in terms of ability. The HTC Vive provides the first truly immersive, high end VR experience and may very well be the biggest step towards the world’s next big platform for applications, media and gaming.