There's no denying virtual reality (VR) is growing faster than anyone could have expected. Google Cardboard opened up the flood gates for VR users, followed by headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, and now we're beginning to see a more 'all inclusive' device enter the market in the form of PlayStation VR and HTC Vive. We recently got a chance to try out the highly anticipated HTC Vive; here's what we thought. 

HTC announced it would be venturing into the innovative territories of VR at Mobile World Congress 2015 in February 2015, and now, nearly 18 months on, the device is finally ready for market. The Vive is an ambitious project, designed to utilise 'room scale' technology via 3D sensors: a unique concept in the VR category.

While Phil Chen, HTC’s Chief Content Officer, explained the company “stumbled upon VR”, it has become a central focus for the company who may now have overtaken Oculus in terms of 'buzz factor' amongst gamers in the know. When HTC partnered with the behemoth gaming provider, Steam, it made a move that would put the Vive front and centre in the VR gaming world.


 

What makes the HTC Vive different?


The big difference in how the Vive operates from the likes of Oculus, is room scaling and wireless controllers. Room scaling dedicates a 6ft x 5ft space in your home (gaming cave), but in return you get a space which you can become completely immersed in and explore.

The wireless controllers, at first, may seem a little unnecessary, but compliment room scaling by adding to the immersive experience. In fact, one of the strangest parts of our 'hands on' experience with the HTC Vive came after putting on the headset, when the HTC team handed over the controllers. The floating controllers, visible through the headset, were exactly where I thought they would be when I reached out. What sets it apart from other popular, and lower priced, headsets like the Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR is the dedicated screen which has a refresh rate of 90 Hz and a 1080x1200 screen per eye. Entry level devices rely on the power of your smartphone and with the exception of the Gear VR, suffer from being too universally compatible.
 

Experiencing the HTC Vive


We're happy to report our experience with the Vive was simply stunning and far beyond what we has expected. During the demo we got to try out popular VR experiences such as Tilt Brush and the hilarious Job Simulator, so let's see how both of these performed on the Vive. 

 
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives

Job Simulator is set in 2050 where the people of the future are given to opportunity to experience the most common jobs from the past (present day).

Our experience was set in the office and involved throwing coffee mugs, crawling around under a desk, plugging in a computer, eating sickening rotten donuts and making copies of books. All but the sickening donuts felt rather familiar.

Making copies was perhaps the most rewarding experience. Game developers have to think of every possible action gamers, like us, will think of. This task involved me picking up a book with one hand, lifting the copier lid with the other and hitting copy. Naturally, both books were thrown across the virtual office, fulfilling dreams, as the game went on.
 
 
Tilt Brush

The second experience, Tilt Brush, turns the world around you into an artistic canvas where the wireless controller is your paint brush. While initially viewing the game/experience on a preview screen while other team members tried it out, we felt it was a little underwhelming.

However, with the headset on and, once you are surrounded by the canvas itself, the creative juices start flowing, as you can see from my efforts on the right.

Owing to the room scaling, you decided to create a classic cube. Once the cube was completed, a smiley face and stick man body followed. Then the depth of room scaling came to the fore as we were able to step close and reach inside the cubed-headed stick man and add a brain within his head.

There is huge potential for the likes of Tilt Brush from a design, prototyping and 3D printing point of view. Here is a clip of some people, far more artistically talented than ourselves, using Tilt Brush.

 
 

Verdict


The issue you're likely to hear raised about the HTC Vive is the price. While it is at the higher end of VR devices, it’s not without merit. You are genuinely getting the very best VR experience available to the consumer market in the HTC Vive.

We really don’t want to take from the Samsung Gear VR which is certainly the best value for money on the market at just €99.99, but that extra investment gets you room scaling, which is far from a household name but does take VR immersion to a whole new level.

Going a step further, the wireless controllers allow you to interact with the world around you while you move, so you're fully in the experience. We really were taken aback by how far VR has come after getting hands on with the HTC Vive. The key areas that astonished us were the ability to move around the virtual world and how game and app developers are allowing users to interact with every aspect of that world.
 
The HTC Vive is now available in Ireland on our sister website, Currys.ie for €929.99, plus free delivery.