Today HTC has taken the wraps off of the second generation version of the HTC Vive. As you probably know, the HTC Vive is a virtual reality head-mounted display designed and made jointly by HTC and Valve. The consumer launch date for the Vive Pre has been pushed back a couple times now, but certain developers have had access to developer versions of the headset for some time now in order to develop new titles for it or work on adapting existing ones. The new Vive Pre is the second version of the Vive developer kit, and it comes with a number of improvements that bring the Vive closer toward its eventual commercial launch which will be occurring this year.

The Vive Pre makes some notable additions to the earlier version. First and foremost are the improvements to ergonomics. According to HTC, the headset has basically been redesigned from the ground up to be more compact and fit more comfortably onto your head while also being more stable. The displays have been made brighter and refinements to the entire display and lens stack have improved clarity over the existing model. Finally, there has been a front camera added to the headset. This may seem strange at first, but what the camera allows for is augmented reality experiences where a feed of the real world can be shown to the user and illusions can be projected onto that space by the headset.

As for the controllers, the design has been overhauled to make them more ergonomic. The buttons have been textured to make them easier to find, and the trigger has been changed to a dual stage switch which allows for interactions with multiple states, such as holding or squeezing something. There's also haptic feedback to go along with interactions, and this is something that can really help the experience when implemented in a proper and subtle manner. Finally, the tracking stations for the controllers have been made smaller and more precise.

I had a chance to try the new Vive Pre earlier, and it marked my first experience with a virtual reality headset, with the exception of the Nintendo Virtual Boy. While I can't make any statements that compare the new Vive to the old dev kit or to other VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, I can say that the experience with the headset and the controllers was unlike anything I've experienced before. The demo consisted of a virtual environment that simulated some of the challenges one would encounter when climbing Mount Everest. It included very theatrical sweeping shots where you looked over the mountains as though you were flying in the air or riding on a helicopter, as well as interactive segments that simulated crossing over a large pit, and climbing up a ladder.

What amazed me was how quickly I forgot about the fact that I was just in a hotel room wearing a rather large helmet and holding some controllers, and I found myself too frightened to look right over the edge of a cliff, and felt a strange feeling when I climbed the ladder as though I was nervous with my increasing height, even though I knew very well that I was standing on the floor the entire time. Head tracking latency was also very low, and to be honest the only thing that ever took me out of the experience was the limited resolution of the displays. That's a technology issue that will be improved with time, but even with that barrier to total immersion the experience is still extremely compelling and unlike anything else.

As of right now, the HTC Vive is scheduled to launch commercially in April of this year. Whether or not that date will be pushed back again is unknown, but what I can say is that I think the Vive and other VR headsets will have been worth the wait. 

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  • Scabies - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    April, huh? Sounds like a tax return to me.

    (Really Brandon? Nothing about price?)
  • Kaboose - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    We'd all love to know the price, both oculus and HTC have been mum when it comes to final pricing, though we should at least know the Oculus pricing tomorrow for sure. The Vive will likely be even more expensive than the Oculus rift by $100-200.
  • blackcrayon - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Not banking on it but I wouldn't be surprised if HTC revealed their price once Oculus reveals theirs today, so they have something to go on.
  • thetuna - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    P.S. I got this email from Oculus today:

    "We’re excited to announce that Rift is now available to pre-order for $599 USD* on and it will ship to 20 countries** starting March 28."
  • JeffFlanagan - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    Good timing, a lot of us get paid three times in April, rather than the usual two, so it's a month with extra cash to spend on toys.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    I want these to be awesome, but I'm feeling really nervous about the first round of vr tech.

    I'd rather wait until dx12 and potential multi-gpu benefits (Gemini?) are mature before jumping into an expensive vr headset.

    It'll probably be awesome in a couple years, but maybe not in the near future.
  • JeffFlanagan - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    We already have at least the 2nd, if not 3rd round of home VR tech. 1st generation was pretty bad with grainy 800x600 OLED displays, but was still immersive. Playing F.E.A.R. in early VR was frightening.

    VR Gear is extremely impressive for a phone-based VR system, much better than earlier PC-based VR. I expect Vive, and the OR to be far superior to phone-based VR. They should be mindblowing.

    VR is going to be so compelling that people will wind up using it too much, and neglect their lives, like people do with drugs now.
  • pedjache - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    You sound almost exactly like my buddy, who expects it to fail horribly, so horribly it'll be the final nail in the coffin of the 2nd (3rd?) video games industry crash.
  • jasonelmore - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    I'm gonna pick up a oculus tomorrow, and use it until the VIVE is ready.. I'll probably sell my oculus when the VIVE is shipping, to pay for it. It's just going to be superior in too many ways.. The expanded playspace, and laser based system, on top of the camera for AR experience is what is pushing me to the vive as my preferred platform.

    and the technology is developed by Valve who owns Steam. Oculus seems more like a console experience, with launch titles like rockband using cel shading art like borderlands.

    I just need something immediately for Elite Dangerous, No mans Sky, Eve Valkyrie, and of course, Star Citizen.
  • blackcrayon - Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - link

    Exactly. Those titles you mentioned alone make it worth it (plus the really good driving sims). I also have some pretty high end motion simulator gear, and when that stuff works at the same time as VR, forget about it! I'm going to do the same, preorder the Rift and get the Vive as soon as it's available, and simply sell the Rift (unless there are exclusives or something horrible like that).

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