HTC Vive

HTC released an improved version of the Vive in May 2018, which mainly fixed some gaps to the competitor Oculus Rift.

The concrete improvements in detail:

  • Integrated headphones
  • Higher resolution (2,880 x 1,600 pixels or 1,440 x 1,600 pixels per eye)
  • Improved ergonomics
  • Stereo camera (for potential Augmented Realtiy applications)
  • Stereo microphone

However, it is only a small step, which also has a few disadvantages. The 3.5mm jack plug on the headset is omitted. The connection cable is no longer made of exchangeable components like HDMI or USB, but is a specially designed cable – so if it breaks down, you will inevitably have to buy a replacement from HTC and you are generally less flexible if you need a longer connection or want to connect the Vive in different places, for example. In addition, the Vive Pro can only be connected to the PC or graphics card with a DisplayPort cable – HDMI is no longer an option, which is why the new distribution box no longer has a connection for it.

The high resolution has an unjustified price

Due to the higher resolution even more power is required. An upgrade of the graphics card is virtually mandatory if you have not already purchased a high-end model in advance. The probably most critical point is the insufficient scope of delivery. HTC sells the Vive Pro at a UVP price of 879€. At first glance, it’s not even that expensive if you take the starting price of the normal Vive of just under 960€ from 2016 as a comparison.

The big but: the Vive Pro does NOT include a controller and tracking sensors (base stations). These must be purchased separately, which brings the total to 1.178€. HTC is probably promoting the Vive Pro as an upgrade for hardcore VR users and B2B customers for this reason as well.

For these reasons, HTC Vive Pro is only recommended for VR fans and business (B2B) customers who own a very powerful gaming PC or gaming laptop and are bothered by the visible pixel grid of its predecessor. Otherwise, especially considering the almost cheeky scope of delivery, the change is only worthwhile for absolute VR enthusiasts who absolutely want to see more sharply.

HTC Vive – The virtual dream room

HTC Vive with controllers Graphics from the frontThe VR headset from HTC, which was developed in close cooperation with the game manufacturer and Steam platform operator Valve, is technically very similar to the Oculus Rift. It features 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye, depending on the head shape and settings around 100° field of view (fov) and a tracking system for spatial perception of headset and controllers.

Millimetre-accurate detection in space

But it is above all in the last point that the great unique selling proposition lies. While you only place one or two small webcams (two for the touch controller) on the desk in the Oculus Rift, you mount two small transmitter stations (base stations) in two opposite corners of the room in the HTC Vive.

With the Steam VR software, which can be downloaded from Steam, a short setup with room measurement and synchronization is performed. Then it can already start.

The technology behind it: The base stations send high-frequency light signals through the room, which are registered by receiver points on the headset and the two controllers located on it. As a result, the HTC Vive system “knows” its position at all times, enabling a room-filling experience with very high precision.

The HTC Vive offers breathtaking worlds – a little space required

Young woman with HTC Vive in a bright roomYou can move freely with a Vive in a previously defined field. This must be at least 1.5m² in size and can officially be extended up to 5m². More area is theoretically possible, but HTC no longer guarantees 100% accurate tracking. However, newer base stations should solve this problem in the future.

The system and a built-in camera in the headset warn you if a wall or obstacle should appear. The scales then match the displayed game world. Controller and head movements are transmitted 1:1.

HTC and Valve christened the technology “Room-Scale VR” and gave it its own section on the popular game marketplace with Steam VR. It offers a variety of innovative possibilities – from drawing applications in space, to a virtual ascent of Mount Everest, to full-fledged games with a real sense of space. There is only one requirement for the games: they must be at least partially adapted to Room-Scale VR.

More and more room-filling games and programs

HTC Vive Controller and TackerIn practice, you can draw three-dimensional sculptures, fly around the world or visit famous places on Google Maps in HTC Vive, play a few casual rounds of sports games with or against human players, and interact with them. The spatial impression is incredibly convincing. Especially when you have to walk around and interact directly with objects.

What’s striking about it is that HTC Vive doesn’t have exclusive titles like Oculus Rift, which are offered in a separate store. The system remains open through the collaboration with Valve and their gaming platform Steam. Only the control options with Room-Scale VR make the difference. With the touch controllers from the Rift, this is at least partially possible. The Oculus Rift offers a room-filling gaming experience with the Oculus touch controllers, but is fixed to a smaller gaming surface due to the tracking system with two webcams and the shorter cable to the headset. But don’t worry: Games that don’t rely exclusively on the rumm-sized VR concept can still be played with a classic gamepad. Either as a separate and customized version or with a control option in the menu – both with the Vive and with another VR headset.

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