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The HTC Vive - 2016 most hotly anticipated virtual reality headset

Fourth Reality HTC Vive Virtual Reality

The HTC Vive is one of the most hotly anticipated VR Headsets due for release in April 2016 and rightly so because this is one killer VR setup!

If you’re not already familiar with the Vive, it’s a VR headset that comes with two wand-like handheld controllers along with a “Lighthouse” tracking system (light sensors which are mounted high up on stands/tall furniture/wall brackets). The tracking system, which emits non-visible light into an area up to 15ft² (4.5m²) allows the Vive to calculate full positional as well as rotational tracking. This is not a stationary, sitting experience but one where you move around. Your movements in the real world are replicated in the virtual world, allowing the user to walk around, duck, kneel, jump etc. and explore their virtual surroundings as if they were there. This removes the disconnect felt when wearing a headset and moving around a virtual world while being stationary in the real world. Another part of this system is a technology developed by Valve called “Chaperone”. “Chaperone” maps out the available physical space in virtual reality. In other words, upon approaching the proximity of the real world VR area the user is presented with a virtual boundary in their VR experience to warn them that they are approaching the edge of the physical area (or an obstacle). In our experience this would appear as a Matrix-esque 3D grid which would fade up and proved to be a fairly good, innocuous indicator to stop moving in that direction.

The two wands that come with the setup provide high fidelity interaction with the virtual world, tracking extremely accurately. We were able to test them in a number of demos, one being “Fantastic Contraption”, a game where the user must construct a plethora of contraptions to carry an orb to a target. The construction components (pipes, wheels etc.) could be stretched and manipulated using the wands, which made for a seamless and instinctive experience. The wands themselves were represented virtually in the game keeping the player aware of where their hands were.

Another experience we were able to try out was that of painting in virtual reality using “Tilt Brush”. The user was placed into a blank 3D space and provided with a palette of painting tools which were toggled by one of the wands. The other wand was used to select any desired tool/colour and the player was then free to paint. It’s hard to describe the experience of painting in 3D virtual space and not being limited to a 2D plane; it provides a completely different depth of freedom with paintings taking on a 3D form.

Overall, the HTC Vive provided an amazingly immersive experience. There was no post-use nausea, the screens/visuals were clear and smooth with no noticeable stuttering and the interactivity felt natural and instinctive. It’ll be exciting to try out the final release version and see how it compares to its competitors (especially the Oculus Rift, which is due for release around the same time).

We will be adding the HTC Vive to our suite of VR headsets which are available to rent. Contact us for more info!

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