HTC Vive / Steam VR

For years there has been one website and game developer / host who has more or less paved the way in terms of PC gaming, and it’s been resolutely Steam. Steam was developed to give unrestricted access to all their members to all of the most current and exciting games out there (whether it was RPG or FPS). And now they’ve understandably added a new weapon to their arsenal: namely, virtual reality. Their Steam VR headset is the latest in terms of virtual reality technology and according to most users it’s on par with even the highest grade VR headsets already on the market – in particular the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift. The Vive, as the system is being called, is quite clear about it offering a fully immersive 360 degree field of vision – on conjunction with both Valve and HTC, both who have pioneered the gaming industry themselves, everything you love about Steam comes full circle with the ability to play a huge variety of their games in high-def virtual reality.

There are a lot of things that make the Vive stand out, and one of these is probably the fact that it has been *specifically* designed to host and play games, which makes it one of the better choices out there for those who already have a history with Steam (and any gamers alike). The open-ended aspect of the headset also means that there will be a lot of physical immersion in the game as well. In essence, we’re talking about one of the first ground-up prototypes for a full haptic feedback: basically, this translates to movement in the real world being transferred to movement in the game. Walk forward in your living room, and you’re walking forward in the game. Swing your arm in one direction, and a similar virtual arm will swing in VR.

User Experience on the Vive

Although it’s one of the newest VR systems to come out, the Vive has already obviously broached a rather large crowd of supports and interest from the gaming community in general – in part this has to do with the fact that being affiliated with Steam (as well as other studios including Lionsgate) they have their own platform for advertisement, and don’t have to look very far for customers. On top of this, there are some interesting aspects of the technology that has really appealed to their demographic that is almost exclusive – and extremely innovative – to the Vive system. Most notably this is the haptic augmented reality system. Attached to the front of the Vive headset is a small camera that relays back to a screen inside what is in front of the user, aptly called the Chaperone.

This is the perfect blend of both reality and virtual reality, and really pushes the boundaries of what has currently been available from the technology. Added to this is the fact that there are several other components that come along with the Vive, and are of course tailored to the gamers. This includes a VR link as well as two haptic game controllers, each equipped with 24 sensors that are able to completely translate 360 degrees of movement. There have been similar attempts to utilize extensions and accessories to VR (think of the Leap Motion available on the Oculus Rift) but Steam has clearly decided to take it to the next level, and from the consensus of most users it has managed to create an extremely fluid gameplay across media.

Technical Specs and Pricing

Unfortunately (but understandably), the Vive is probably one of the most expensive virtual reality headsets on the market to date, coming in at $1149 Canadian. The high price tag is attributed to its performance, for sure – but there is also the fact that it is quintessentially tied to Steam as well. Because of the open-system and haptic relay attached to the Vive, one of the requirements for many games has been a bit more room, up to 5 meters diagonally to allow for a complete physical immersion while walking around (which is 3.5 meters by 3.5 meters). Both controllers are wireless and built-in with a 960 mAh lithium battery.

The display, as mentioned, is also exceptional to some of the highest quality VR headsets with a resolution quality of 2160 x 1200 (or again, 1080 x 1200 per eye) with low resistance and global illumination. What really sets the Vive apart however is the refresh rate, which clocks out at 90 Hz, well above quite a few other models on the market, and one of the many likely reasons that so many users have attributed the headset to such a fluid and well-synced gameplay. Of course, like the Oculus Rift, the Vive is not a standalone product, and connects to a PC that also has to have similar standard ratings in order to operate at full capacity.

For most users, it’s recommended to have a computer with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 70 equivalent processor or higher graphics card, with at least 4 gigs of RAM and an HDMI 1.4 video output. Again all of these are just equivalencies, but it should be noted that the Vive is probably one of the headsets out there with the highest demands on its system and PC, something to consider for those who may have to spend an additional amount of money to upgrade.

What You Can Expect In The Future

It’s hard to say whether the Vive will gain the sort of traction of other lower tier virtual reality systems that are arguably adaptive to most of the newest and current VR media coming out, and are able to offer it at a far lower price. Money does seem to be the one hitch in Vive’s system, but solely from a technical and user-based point of view, it is *the* headset for those who are interested in virtual reality, gaming and – of course – steam vr porn.

The additional elements of haptic controllers, the Chaperone camera, and extreme physical immersion makes it a hugely demanding device, but one that lives up to every dollar. If the demand picks up – and we hope it does – it’s quite possible we’ll see a dramatic reduction in price as well, so keep your fingers crossed. We give the HTC Vive and Steam VR an equitable 9.2 out of 10.