HTC and Valve Enter the VR Gaming Race

Source: HTC via YouTube

It’s a strange conundrum: Although no major virtual reality headsets have been released yet, the market already feels crowded. To date, Facebook, Sony, Razer, and Microsoft have announced headsets that will be used for gaming, and Nvidia is rumored to have one ready to announce this week. The latest to join the fray is a headset made by HTC with an assist from the gaming company Valve. It’s called Vive.

The Vive will contain two screens with 1,200 by 1,800 pixels each. One screen sits in front of each eye and boasts refresh rates of 90 frames per second, “eliminating jitter” and achieving “photorealistic imagery,” according to an HTC spokesperson. The device will be loaded up with an accelerometer, a gyro sensor, and a laser position sensor to keep you immersed in the virtual world as you move your head. HTC says it can track your movements to a tenth of a degree.

In addition to the headset, HTC will offer SteamVR “base stations” that will be able to track the position of your body in spaces up to 15 by 15 feet. If you have a room you can dedicate to virtual reality, this doesn’t sound too far from the holodeck from Star Trek. As for your hands, the Vive will be compatible with special game controllers, which players can hold in each hand to interact with the game world.

Speaking of the game worlds you’ll be able to inhabit using the Vive headset, a few companies have already signed on to bring content to the device. Among them are Dovetail Games, the makers of Microsoft Flight Simulator X; Fireproof Games, the makers of the iOS game The Room; and Cloudhead Games, a new studio focused on building VR games. Additionally, the device’s website lists Google, Lionsgate, and HBO as content partners, which hints that the Vive will be used for more than just games.

“The Vive headset was developed in conjunction with Valve, creators of such ground-breaking games as Portal and Half-Life,” HTC said in a statement on the Vive’s website. “HTC manufactures some of the finest consumer electronics on the planet and Valve is an unrivaled architect of virtual worlds, so you know the collaboration is something special. Vive is powered by Valve’s SteamVR so plenty of games that take advantage of its capabilities will soon be available on the Steam service.”

The device is slated to release by the end of the year. You can watch HTC and Valve’s introductory video here.

Source: HTC via YouTube

Vive will have plenty of competition. The company that kicked off this wave of virtual reality gaming was Oculus VR in 2012. Its Oculus Rift headset had a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $2 million in funding. In 2014, Facebook purchased the company for $2 billion, giving the whole VR scene a major boost of confidence.

In 2014, Sony announced it was working on a headset of its own called Project Morpheus, which will work with the PlayStation 4 console. Sony has scheduled a four-hour event at this year’s Game Developers Conference to show off its progress on the device.

Even Microsoft has announced a headset called HoloLens, which operates differently from its competitors. Instead of totally obscuring your view as the other headsets do, HoloLens has a clear display that lets you see through to the world around of you. What HoloLens does is make it look as though digital objects are actually right in front of you.

The overall theme here is that lots of big, forward-thinking companies are pouring fortunes into getting into virtual reality off the ground. Once the products launch, it’s going to be an interesting battle, and only a fraction of the combatants are expected see real success in the market.

Thankfully, competition is good for consumers. With so many big names throwing their hats in the ring, they’ll have to offer premium products to stay afloat. The only caveat here is that you might want to wait until the dust settles before buying a virtual reality headset. You wouldn’t want to blow a bunch of money on a product only to see it falter and collapse under the competition.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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