HTC Vive VR Kit Hands-On Preview: Room Scale Virtual Reality Has Arrived

HTC Vive Hardware And Installation

The HTC Vive headset features a number of sensors in addition to its screens and optics. It works together with the handheld wireless controllers and base stations to enable seated or room-scale virtual reality experiences.

htc vive vr headset
HTC Vive Headset

The headset features 32 individual sensors which enable full 360° motion tracking. There is also a world-facing camera built into the front of the device (bottom, middle), which can be used to blend real-world elements into the virtual world.

htc vive vr screens
HTC Vive Optics And Face Cushion

Inside the headset, there are dual screens with a 2160 x 1200 combined resolution and 90 Hz refresh rate, which provide a 110° field of view. That resolution and refresh rate are important to note, because you’ll need hardware that can keep framerates high at that resolution for an optimal experience. The HTC Vive headset also features interchangeable foam inserts and nose pads to get the best fit. And we should also note that most glasses will fit under the headset as well. Of course, there’s an adjustable headset strap to keep everything in snugly place on your head.

htc vive vr remotes
HTC Vive Wireless Controller

The HTC Vive’s wireless controllers are an excellent accessory that help set the Vive apart from sole, VR headsets. The wireless controllers can be charged via the included micro-USB cables and feature built-in multi-function trackpads with haptic feedback, top-mounted buttons, and dual-stage triggers, that also offer haptic feedback. In addition to the trackpads and triggers / buttons, the wireless controllers also have 24 sensors built-in for accurate motion tracking. When you’re in a VR world and look down at your hands when you’re holding the controllers, the controllers’ positions in the virtual worlds are shown on-screen. The controllers can also be changed into various things in the VR world, like mitten-covered hands, paintbrushes, etc.

htc vive vr modules
HTC Vive Base Stations

A pair of base stations included with the HTC Vive kit are designed to enable 360° motion tracking for room-scale VR applications. The base stations should ideally be mounted at two opposing corners of the room or space being used to approximate the VR world. The base stations sync wirelessly to the Vive kit / PC, but do require individual power cables.

Setup And Installation

There are essentially four main stages to the HTC Vive’s setup and configuration. The headset itself needs to be connected to a VR-ready PC. The Vive’s software must be installed and the wireless controllers and base stations linked to the kit. The base stations must also be strategically mounted to take advantage of room-scale motion tracking. And finally you’ll need to install Vive compatible VR titles or access VR-content on-line.

vive setup

There are USB, HDMI, and link station cables permanently attached to the headset, which connect to the included link station. The link station is then connected to the PC. The Vive’s software suite and drivers must be downloaded from and installed on the PC. The HTC Vive was co-developed with Valve, and all of the Vive’s content is available via Steam VR. As of this writing, there are already dozens of HTC Vive optimized applications and games available via Steam VR -- we'll list them all on the next page.

htc vive cables
Wiring Attached To The HTC Vive Headset

HTC recommends the base stations get mounted at opposing corners in the VR space, 6.6 (min) – 16 feet (max) apart. As for the PC powering the experience, HTC recommends an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent GPU (or faster), with an Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 (or faster) processor, and at least 4GB of RAM. You’ll also need an available HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 display output on your graphics cards, and a USB 2 port. Windows 7 SP1 (or newer) is supported.

Those recommendations are in-line with what we’d consider to be the bare minimum for a decent VR experience, but ideally you’ll want to throw as much horsepower at the Vive as possible – think a 980 Ti or Fury X (or two) with a Core i7 and 8GB of RAM or more. If you’d like to test the performance of your PC, there is a Steam VR benchmark available that was developed alongside the Vive to asses a PC’s VR capabilities.

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