Granted: The HTC Vive is not quite fresh anymore, but because there is now a wireless kit with TPCast, we will publish the review of the Vive here.
How it works
The heart of the Vive is the “glasses“, the helmet or, technically correct, the head-mounted display. In front of each eye is a separate OLED panel with a resolution of 1080 × 1200 pixels and a repetition frequency of 90 Hz. In this way, the representation of a very clean 3D effect is possible.
In contrast to many other VR glasses and simple VR covers for smartphones, the Vive not only reacts to movements of the head, but is also able to record its exact position and position in space. HTC uses Lighthouse technology for this purpose: two base stations are positioned opposite each other in the room and emit infrared laser beams. Several sensors on the “glasses” detect this light and can calculate the position of the headset on the basis of the time difference between the impact on the photocells.
Glasses are the heart of the HTC-VR system
This allows you not only to use the Vive while sitting in front of your computer, but also – if you have enough space – to set it up in the room and move freely on your own feet in virtual reality, walking around virtual objects and walls and looking past them. If you are fast enough, you can avoid virtual enemies or approaching arrows and projectiles with your own body movements.
In order not to run against real objects or walls, the “play space” is measured before use by running the maximum playing surface with a controller in your hand. If you come too close to the real border in virtual reality, a virtual wall appears. This is a bit irritating at first, but after a few hours of experience with the Vive it leads to the fact that one trusts the technology one hundred percent and moves relaxed in the virtual space.
The disadvantage of this technology is, of course, that it takes up a lot of space. Only those who can shovel at least 2 by 2 meters, better still more, can make use of the full functional range of the Vive – but it’s worth it. No VR experience we’ve ever seen has been so impressive.
In addition to the VR glasses themselves, the two lighthouses are particularly necessary for operating the Vive, cuboids measuring about five by five centimeters, which only need a power socket for operation, but no data connection. This is practical and reduces the wiring effort. In practice, however, it is still a challenge to set up and align these base stations correctly. Thanks to the tripod thread on the underside and ball heads, this is quite feasible, but one must expect to need additional accessories for mounting. If you don’t want to take the Vive with you more often, you will probably want to mount the base stations on the walls.
If you don’t want to screw the sensors to the wall, you need suitable tripods
Important for virtual relativity are the two included controllers, whose exact position in the room is also determined. They can be used to pick up objects, turn them into weapons, brushes or shields, or teleport through artificial worlds at the touch of a button. Various sensibly placed buttons, an analog trigger on the bottom as well as a touch and click pad on the top help you to select tools, colors or weapons. In the beginning the controller seems a bit bulky and too big, but you quickly get used to it – and then get along well and intuitively with the controls. Okay, after a few hours your wrists and arms hurt a bit. But this has less to do with the fact that shape, weight & Co. are not right, but more with the fact that you hold your tools and weapons in the air, aim, shoot, jump and balance. That’s more exhausting than sitting on the couch.
That’s what the sensors look like at close range
In addition, various cables and connectors are needed to connect the gaming PC to the Vive. The thick cable between Vive and computer is annoying, but now there is a possibility to replace the cable with a battery and a wireless connection. More about this next week.
The biggest hurdle for the purchase of the Vive is probably the gaming PC. Above all, you can’t save on graphics power here. The desktop replacement from MSI made available to us for the test is a “notebook” with the format and weight of a home cinema amplifier with a price tag of over 3000 euros. If it doesn’t have to be portable, you can manage with half the money, but the recommended graphics card alone – for example a Geforce GTX 1080 with 8 GB RAM from Nvidia – costs between 550 and 600 Euros.
- Resolution: 2x 1080×1200 (1080×1200 per eye)
- Field of view measured: 100° (horizontal)
- Frame rate :90Hz
- Panel: OLED
- Tracking (internal): Gyroscope, acceleration sensor
- Tracking (external): Laser
- Interfaces: HDMI 1.4, 1x USB 2.0, 3.5mm jack
- Weight: 561g (without cable), 468g (without cable, new revision), 883g (with cable)
- Features: 3D-capable, IPD-adaptation, integrated digital camera
The hurdles for the hardware are now clear, but is the whole effort worth it? What about content and games? The answer is quite simple, since there are only two official sources for Vive content – Viveport in the Vive shop and the games platform Steam with its extension Steam VR.
Steam offers Vive content under the Games tab and the Virtual Reality filter. Since software for other VR systems such as the Oculust Rift is also listed here, the user still has to select HTC Vive as the VR headset on the right. The Vive quickly fascinated us.
- Now the first of a total of 104 pages with matching software appears. In total, Steam currently offers over 2500 apps and games for Vive alone. While simple games and demos are often free of charge or only cost a few Euros, the prices for fat game packages reach over the 400 Euro mark. Full versions of premium titles such as Fallout 4 VR or Project Cars 2 cost between 50 and 60 euros.
- While Steam also offers non-VR-compatible games for other VR glasses, Viveport offers a colorful mix of different applications exclusively for HTC Vive. In addition to lots of 360-degree video footage, there are virtual tours of historical sites, buildings and museums. Virtual chat rooms, VR sightseeing flights and city tours are also available.
Of course, gaming is not neglected either. From simple arcade games to complex role-playing games or action-packed baller games, there is something for every taste. The pricing of the software is pleasantly customer-friendly. In addition to lots of free content, there are also many apps in the range of up to ten euros. Even the expensive applications are still in a fair range, usually less than 25 Euros. If you can’t get enough of the virtual reality, you can also get a subscription with access to hundreds of other paid titles for the current price of 8 euros a month.
For our test we have downloaded and tried various demos, free games and cheap games. Fact one: One of the absolute VR classics, Space Pirate Trainer, is still addictive and an absolute must-have. Fact two: Even simple games are a lot of fun thanks to the ingenious VR technology. We deliberately kept our hands off titles like Fallout 4 VR or Oblivion, the VR adventure of the Myst makers. After this test, the Vive must return to the manufacturer. Unfortunately, if we had these games in our inventory, we wouldn’t be able to get them out.
The immersion in the virtual world works better at HTC Vive than at any other product. As soon as you get used to wearing Vive glasses and get involved in the virtual world, you’re really melting into it. Some users have a problem “letting themselves fall” at the beginning, but that also goes away.
In the first few minutes, however, trust in the technology is still lacking. We have observed various users lifting their glasses and checking the real environment: Am I still standing in the middle of the room or am I hitting the wall? Or do I stumble or fall down somewhere? This uncertainty ensures that the user does not fully engage in the virtual world.
The longer we use the system, the less we think about the real environment while playing. As soon as this point is reached, VR is really fun. You don’t start thinking about the Vive anymore, but explore the environment or concentrate on your tasks in the game. After several days, it’s time to forget that the environment is only fictitious. One of our colleagues sat down on a bench in the game after a virtual job was done – and landed, in the truest sense of the word, on the ground of facts. The Vive controllers are easy to hold and the buttons are easy to reach.
It’s always impressive to take off your glasses after one or more hours in the game and get back to reality. Occasionally this is even very liberating; after all, no one has claimed that virtual fighting, running and working is not really exhausting.
Only two points remind the user again and again that he is in a virtual world: The cable between glasses and computer and the pixelated resolution of the glasses. When turning or running, the cable regularly gets in the way and interferes. This is not only annoying, but also sometimes dangerous. The first attempts should therefore take place with sufficient space and a supervisor together, and we also recommend a look at the wireless solution TPCast.
Although the resolution of the Vive on paper is really high, it’s not enough yet. The OLED panels sit right in front of the user’s eyes, so you can see the individual pixels. With the newly introduced HTC Vive Pro, which will be launched in the next few months, the resolution is significantly higher, but the problem is not completely gone, as our colleague Jan-Keno Janssen reports after trying it out in Las Vegas.
Prices & Accessories
The Vive Set is available in two versions. While the standard version is intended for end customers, there is a second, more expensive business version. The components of the two sets are identical. Those who use the Vive commercially must therefore dig deeper into their pockets. If you use the end user version commercially, you run the risk of losing any warranty and guarantee claims.
A useful extra is the so-called Deluxe Audio Strap for the Vive. The purchase of this extension improves the wearing comfort of Vive glasses many times over. In addition, two headphones are built in, which further intensify the VR experience. Without headphones and with normal floorstanding speakers, immersing yourself in the virtual world is much more difficult.
- For example, if you want to use your real tennis racket for playing, you can equip it with an additional tracker to integrate it into the virtual environment.
- The Wireless Kit TPCast is not quite cheap, but makes a lot of sense. This makes it possible to use the Vive without disturbing cables. The test will follow shortly.
- Anyone who wants to replace the face cushion of the glasses at some point or has to buy defective individual components will also receive the components of the set individually.
The high costs for Vive, accessories and above all a powerful gaming PC are the big hurdle. The mere fact that comfortable straps and headphones cost extra shows what a sharp pencil the manufacturer expected. This is simply the forefront of IT and gaming technology that comes together here – ingenious but expensive. Our test goggles are already equipped with the optionally available Deluxe Audio Strap.
Regardless of this, we can only recommend everyone to try out the Vive once. But be careful: the addiction factor is immense. That’s exactly why we at Fallout VR are still keeping our hands off. Otherwise the next salaries for Gaming-PC, Vive and accessories would go on it.
VR Porn Setup Guide For HTC Vive
If you want to immerse yourself in virtual reality with the HTC Vive, you first have to fight your way through the complex setup. We’ll tell you how to get the VR glasses ready for use.
- First, you must create a free playing area of at least 2 x 1.5 meters.
- The tracking sensors must be installed at two opposite corners of the playing surface.
- The VR glasses are wired to the PC via a small connection box.
- You can get the required drivers on the HTC website for Vive
- The final setup and room recording takes place via Steam VR.
- The tool guides you step by step through the further setup process.
- The HTC Vive should then be ready for operation.