Virtual reality is truly here, but it has yet to arrive in a way that lives up to its promise as a transformative media experience. Following the release last week of the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive is the next headset out of the gate trying to win consumers over. The VR headset offers a fully immersive experience with sensors to track one's movement in a room, but that comes at a hefty price of $799. Based on reviews, the HTC Vive may not be the device that opens the VR floodgates.
The biggest difference between the available Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, aside from the price, is interactivity. Facebook's Oculus Rift, priced at $599, requires a minimal amount of movement. Players move their head around and use the bundled wireless Xbox One controller with the game.
The HTC Vive's sensors map out a user's room, which lets players paint in a 3D space or crawl underneath obstacles. It's great on paper, but limits just how much a player can actually do. In fact, it's almost like buying a swimming pool, according to the Wall Street Journal. The HTC Vive requires one to give up a room in exchange for the VR experience. VR can be a somewhat alienating experience, but the HTC Vive's built-in camera can give users a view of the outside world from within the headset.
For many reviewers, the HTC Vive was an impressive technical achievement that just missed the mark. Setup is much more intensive with the included sensors and additional link box that connects the headset to the PC, according to Polygon. The headset itself is heavier than the Rift, which could make longer play sessions uncomfortable. The Vive and Rift both suffer from the feeling of being tethered by the cable that extends from the headset. Execution, in terms of hardware and experiences, was the biggest drawback for the Verge in its review.
The high price of VR may deter the curious early adopter. Unlike a new phone, tablet or computer, the headset is just the first step in the VR experience. Users will need a powerful PC or a graphics card upgrade. Oculus-ready PCs start at $949 with bundles that include the Rift priced from $1,949 to $3,149.
Unlike the Rift, with its years in development, the Vive has a lack of games at launch. There also are issues with stability, with apps crashing for some reviewers. Unfortunately, the HTC Vive is yet another glimpse of what a future with VR may look like, with the technology a generation away from truly appealing to a mass audience.