HTC is using CES 2016 to reveal the latest version of its Vive virtual reality system, built in partnership with gaming titan Valve. It's called the Vive Pre, and hosts several exciting new features that you need to know about.
First up, the headset itself now looks much sleeker and consumer-friendly, with the sensors less prominent and a head strap that obscures the unsightly wires.
There's also a new front-facing camera, which will allow for overlap between the virtual and physical worlds. While there's plenty of potential for developers to do some interesting things here, it will also make for a more comfortable experience when paired with Valve's room-scale technology, which enables you to walk around when using Vive – for example, you'll be able to see your cat when it runs into the room, and avoid standing on it.
All of the new features are the ones we recently reported on, including the updated controllers. The Vive's controllers have been overhauled with circular heads (RIP hexagonal satellite heads), softer edges and grip pads for a design that should be more comfortable in your hands.
There's also a new "dual stage" trigger which HTC says will provide smoother interactions with objects, while the controllers now feature rechargeable batteries that can run for "over four hours".
HTC is calling the Pre its "second-generation developer edition" - so it's not the final consumer edition, at least not in name, but it seems very close.
What's exciting about all of this is just how close to the finish line the Vive is. When it launches in April, HTC's system will be optimised to work with Steam, Valve's massive gaming platform. It will also be arriving with the controllers ready to go, while Oculus, which just announced that pre-orders will go live on January 6, won't have its 'Touch VR' controllers ready until late 2016.
Although Oculus, HTC and Sony have championed the appearance of new players in the VR arena, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the Vive and Oculus Rift are going to be going head-to-head; both are gunning for PC users, both have their own input devices, and both offer a visual experience that's more or less the same.
Oculus might be the poster child for virtual reality, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that HTC has taken the lead here. Oculus has already announced that two games will come packaged with the system, but HTC and Valve haven't said a lot about games yet.
Many games and experiences will likely work across both devices, but we expect HTC/Valve will want to make a big bang with something unique to the Vive platform. HTC recently hinted to techradar that a big software announcement was on its way.
"For too long, the promise of virtual reality has been little more than a promise," said HTC CEO Cher Wang in a statement regarding today's reveal of the Vive Pre. "Today we stand on the precipice of a new era. Vive is creating a world where the only limit is human imagination."
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