When Valve unveiled its VR solution at GDC earlier this month, no one was surprised - outside of the fact that it'd be partnering with HTC. Given the somewhat odd pairing, it was hard to speculate whether or not the two companies had a hit on their hands. After all, while there was no real competition out there when Oculus first hit the scene, the year ahead is going to see an explosion of VR gear hit the market.
With their Vive, though, Valve and HTC are confident. So confident, in fact, that they're willing to take a financial hit to get developer kits into the hands of those capable of creating amazing VR experiences. That doesn't mean that the kits are being sold at a discount; instead, qualified developers have a chance of receiving a kit for free - and word has it that supplies are not going to be that limited.
As Ars Technica writes, kits have already been seeded to a number of specially-chosen developers; for the rest of you, sign-up forms are expected to go live this week via a new site.
I reached out to Anshel Sag, Staff Technologist at Moor Insights & Strategy, who happened to get some hands-on time with the HTC Vive at last week's VR LA event. He offers a ringing endorsement: "Valve's solution is the best VR I have experienced to date, however it does require quite a bit of hardware that others do not. But the extra hardware seems worth it based on experience it provides."
I hate to admit that I've been a stick-in-the-mud where VR is concerned, but my opinion changed a bit a couple of weeks ago when I attended NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference and was able to put a solution there to the test. Now, I am actually quite interested in seeing how companies like Valve/HTC and others manage to one-up their competitors. Valve has proven that it can be done, and that not all VR is the same.
Things are only going to become more exciting with time. Oculus might be king now, but it's going to be soon facing an uphill battle once competitor kits flood the market.