I’ve never tried VR myself, so when HTC invited me to test out the HTC Vive I couldn’t resist. HTC Vive was developed by HTC and Valve Corporation and is one of the most talked about VR systems with a futuristic designed. I had the opportunity to not only play but unbox the system.
The HTC Vive is the first virtual reality system to be launched for Valve’s SteamVR platform and was revealed just over a year ago. Running on PC, Vive offers a refresh rate of 90 Hz and uses two screens (one for each eye) having 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye. The most notable feature is the front facing camera that allows the system to monitor any moving or static objects in your playing area. The system started to ship out early April and retails at US$799 with many different components within the box.
The Vive comes in a large black futuristic box with hints of cyan in the lettering. When you open the box you’ll find you have quite a few components of the Vive. I was immediately drawn to the headset, the biggest of the compartments. Although it’s not the slimmest looking, the headset looks like something out of a sci-fi film. It is definitely the most stylish headset on the market. The Vive headset’s design includes large thick bands to reduce it slipping from your face. I was very surprised at how comfortable the headset rested on my head even while wearing my glasses, so no need to worry about discomfort!
After getting a peak at everything in the box, it was time for me to put it all together before I could give the system a test. Although the system itself isn’t difficult to set up but it does include a lot of steps. Thankfully Vive makes the processes less strenuous through its software that walks users through the procedure. To set up the system the time allotted is approximately 30 minutes but if you’re in my situation and have the pressure of someone watching you then set up may take longer.
Aside from downloading the software you will need to mount the sensor bars. They are easy to mount as you can mount them to the wall or a tripod; however I wouldn’t suggest resting them on a flat surface. They gently vibrate so it’s better to have them mounted securely. After your sensors are set up you will need to calibrate them. You have the option to choose between room scale and standing operations. Room scale allows you to move around while you play, which require a free from obstruction space that is minimum of 6.5ft by 5ft. Whereas, standing operations gives gamers the VR experience without needing to move around. Luckily I had the space to play room scale.
After other minor steps and the quick controller calibration I was well on my way to putting VR to the test. Before I jumped into VR I spoke to JB McRee, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at HTC VIVE. JB prepped me for the whole experience.
“The most unique feature is room scale VR. With Vive you can get up and move around the entire room. Instead of using a controller or input device to navigate around environments, you physically walk. It feels more real and you get those feelings of anxiety and anxiousness when you get close to an edge or something is moving towards you, you feel like you want to get away.”
I asked McRee if I should be concerned about my tendency to get motion sickness with a lot of movement. He assured me,
“Latency is a feeling, like when you move your hand in real life but it moves slower than VR. Having at least 90 fps helps eliminate that feeling, therefore minimizing motion sickness. Frame rate has to stay at or above 90 fps. When you go below that, people feel uncomfortable and that is why we demand that standard from every developer.”
With restored confidence I jumped right in to test out Vive. I was completely blown away at how immersed I was in VR. It is not only the feeling of being completely surrounded by an environment but walking through it. Although it was an adjustment at first I got use to the idea of being able to move myself around, which lead to better gameplay. The Vive’s room scale featured fed my curiosity to explore the environment.
Particularly in The Lab, Vive’s free demo software that is a collection of mini games, you can play fetch with a mechanical dog. While playing I had an urge to look over the cliffs. Tilting my head and moving my upper body forward made me feel unbalanced. The way I would have if I was looking over a real life cliff and sure enough I felt nervous. Developers are well aware of the feelings you can simulate and use this for some suspenseful moments.
While I was playing Arizona sunshine, a zombie shooter, I was completely lost in trying to survive. I was actually doing well and thought to myself, “I’m pretty great at this. I can definitely survive a real life zombie apocalypse”. Unfortunately that was short lived, I heard a helicopter above me and looked up. I made a rookie mistake. When I looked back down, right there was a zombie right in front of me and I died. Not only was it a reality check that I would be the first to go if zombies invaded, but it was also unexpected and I screamed really loud.
The Vive provided the perfect platform for the entertaining moments that I had. The mobility the system allows adds more depth than any other VR hardware. Also, the controllers became my equipment in each game. The design of the controllers was specifically made for the VR experience to feel a part of the game. Especially while playing Space Pirate Trainer the shape of the controller rested comfortably and made it easy to maneuver. I felt like I was holding my weapons which added to the immersive experience.
After playing with it for a few hours, I was more than impressed. The Vive is definitely as system I can see myself owning. Although it seems like an investment JB McRee guaranteed that the Vive will keep evolving.
“The fact that it’s [Vive] powered by STEAM and it’s connected to the STEAM platform means updates can come at a daily basis. We’re going to continue to push out new and exciting things, it’s not like you buy VIVE now and it’s not going to change. It’s going to continue to change, it’s going to get better, higher performing, and it’s going to have new and cool features.”
Overall I unboxed, set-up and experienced HTC VIVE. I invested a bit of time putting it together, but it was well worth it! Once you jump in, your senses will be fooled giving you a realistic experience that you can spend hours in. Only the Vive provides that truly immersive experience with the option to play room scale and has controllers built for VR. Also with the commitment from HTC to continue improving the system through updates it is definitely an investment that is well worth it. I would highly recommend this to other gamers looking to get into VR.
Here is the full list of items included in the box: