The HTC Vive is now celebrating its second anniversary. Though the successful Kickstarter for the Oculus Rift could be said to have launched to start of the modern era of virtual reality (VR), the emergence of the HTC Vive as a competitor and its success proved that the market for high-end VR headsets was a viable one. VRFocus will examine the past two years and also attempt to peer into the future to see what developments may await.
The HTC Vive was developed in collaboration between HTC and Valve Corporation as an outgrowth of its SteamVR platform. Prototypes of the system were displaying at various events during 2014, where it was simply known as the ‘SteamVR hardware system’. With Valve and Steam already being known and trusted names among the videogame community, there was a keen interest in the system from the start.
HTC official unveiled its version of the device, now titled the HTC Vive at the Mobile World Congress on 1st March, 2015. It was quickly announced that Unity would be supporting the hardware, followed not long after by Epic Games confirming that Unreal Engine support would be available for the device.
Retails sales of the HTC Vive to the public began in November 2016, and by the end of that year, HTC announced that the Vive was selling at the profit and sales totals were higher than originally anticipated.
Upon launch, the HTC Vive boasted two main advantages, the first that its Lighthouse motion tracking system paired not only with the headset, but also the Vive Wand motion controllers, allowing for ‘room-scale’ VR experiences straight out of the box. In addition, the Vive Wand controllers allowed for a more natural way to interact with the VR environment, letting users to reach for objects instead of interacting via a joypad style controller with its touch pads and triggers.
HTC also announced a way to upgrade the HTC Vive to a wireless form using an upgrade kit from TPCast. The device generated immediate interest, as wireless VR systems were much in demand, but development and technical issued meant the device wasn’t shown in commercial form until CES 2017.
The Vive Tracker is a motion tracking accessory that can be attached to physical accessories or additional controllers, such as a racquet for sports games, or the light gun-style hyper blaster. In one memorable case, a developer attached one to his cat so he wouldn’t stand on the poor creature by accident when ensconced in VR.
To solve the problem of users having to use bulky headphones along with the headset and improve the comfort of the head-mounted display, HTC released the Deluxe Audio Strap in June 2017. This accessory replaced the default headset strap and added integrated over-ear headphones and changed the weight distribution to make the headset more comfortable to wear.
The latest upgrade to the Vive family was the HTC Vive Pro, and upgrade path that improved the visuals for the headset. HTC followed that up by announcing a price drop for the original headset, and a new bundle for those wanting to go straight for the upgraded version.
Next up, looking at the best videogames available on the system.