We've seen many advances in virtual reality over the last couple of years, but the sad truth is that the consumer versions of the technology still do a bad job of mimicking the feeling of actually holding objects. Depending on what you're doing, the usual paddles and wands often don't cut it.
But that unhappy state of affairs changed a bit today, as HTC announced the first consumer tracker accessory bundles for the HTC Vive, which allow you to feel as though you're using a real handgun in VR combat or making wicked serves in virtual tennis.
The new Vive Tracker fits on top on all three of the new peripherals, which help establish a firmer midpoint between imagination and reality. They're currently only available for pre-order, although HTC says they'll start shipping at some point in mid-December.
On the move
The more interesting accessory is the Hyper Blaster, in part because it looks a lot like the Zapper that was sold with the original Nintendo Entertainment System for use with the game Duck Hunt.
The association is intentional, judging from the device's colors and the fact that it's sold with a horror game like "Duck Season" that's clearly riffing on Nintendo's 1984 game. Just fit the Vive Tracker onto the top of the Hyper Blaster, and it works in tandem with the trigger to make you feel as though you're firing a real handgun. Amazon is currently the only place where you can buy the $150 bundle, which will come with the Hyper Blaster, one Vive Tracker and the game Duck Season.
The other bundle is Racket Sports, which fittingly comes with properly weighted accessories resembling a tennis racket and a ping-pong paddle and feel as though you're using the real thing. This bundle costs the same as the Hyper Blaster one, and it comes with a tracker, the two paddle accessories and a code to download Virtual Sports. You can pre-order it on both Amazon and the Vive website, as well as from Abt Electronics, BH Photo, Fry’s, Gamestop, Micro Center and NewEgg.
Finally, if you want to push your immersion a bit further, you can also pick up $25 "TrackStraps" that let you tie Vive Trackers to your arms or legs in order to allow for full-body tracking. They may sound like the least expensive option, but in order to get the most out of them, you're going to get to get two Vive Trackers, which can get pricey when you consider that the individual trackers cost $100 apiece. (You can currently only buy both the individual trackers from HTC itself and the TrackStraps from HTC partner Rebuff Reality.)
In fact, let's admit it: the whole setup is kind of crazily expensive. The paddles help give the impression is becoming something like Nintendo's once-popular Wii console, but to pick up everything here, you're going to end up paying $300 on top of a virtual reality system that already costs $300. And that's to say nothing of the $25 you may want to spend on two TrackStraps.
If it makes you feel any better, the entire package still comes out to about $350 less than what you'd end up spending on a new iPhone X. So that's something ... right?