There is a bit of a story here. At GDC 2015, MTBS very much wanted to try out the HTC Vive, but it was an impossibility given the limited number of appointments, timing, etc. I’m on the East Coast, so access is further limited.
The thing is I live and breath this stuff…and believe it or not…Vive even appeared in my dreams. The dream went like this: I was at yet another conference with a crowd of people. Valve was getting set to once again show the HTC Vive and I was being waived in for my demo. The Vive was ready, I was ready, and I said “just give me a moment while I get my camera out”. As I was crouching down to get my trusty 3D camcorder, the Valve representative immediately yells “NO!” and takes the Vive away.
I immediately woke up and came to the sad realization that even in my dreams, I’m not allowed to try out the HTC Vive.
Months later, I had the joy of going to the SVVR conference, and with thanks to a private party put on by WEVR, I finally got my chance to try it out for myself. Was it worth the wait? Did my dreams (or as Joe Ludwig called it, my “un-dream”) come true?
I have to point out that I didn’t get a full demo. I only got to see the WEVR interface and a single underwater VR demonstration (which was good). It was enough to get a grasp of what the hardware is capable of and walk away with some first impressions.
The innovations I saw were more on the software side; recognizing when you are within range of a wall for example. There isn’t anything that can’t be duplicated by other solutions and I’m certain we will be seeing more and more techniques copied between vendors as the industry sees new ideas come out of the woodwork.
The screens were about the same as Crescent Bay; they might even be using the same specs – I don’t know for sure. The input controllers were effective, though they aren’t radically better than anything I’ve tried before. However, they work without special conditions attached (e.g. magnetic field based controllers tend to be problematic around large amounts of metal like the structure of a VR CAVE).
Is it radically better than Crescent Bay? That’s actually a pointless question as it’s just a developer kit at this point. I’m going to say no – for now. The biggest and most meaningful victory is that HTC and Valve proved without a doubt that we are moving into a world of competitive hardware. This isn’t going to be a future dominated by a single brand with a secret sauce that can’t be replicated elsewhere, and every manufacturer will be prone to the ebb and flow of media interest, customer allegiance, and secure business relationships like everyone else. Only now are we starting to see new IP in the field, so the most interesting times are yet to come!
Valve has already gone on record that their next revision will be better in all respects. Though similar to Oculus VR, even when they finalize, I’m certain there will be other players that have better specs still. Looking forward to seeing how the industry shapes up!