I saw the future today. I mean that. I got the chance here at MWC to try the new VR headset that Valve and HTC are developing. Is it good? It’s absolutely incredible. This thing is just…my god you guys I can’t even.
What this headset nails—and I mean fucking nails—is a sense of presence. A sense that you’re not just seeing a different world, but that your actual body is being transported there. Strap on the Vive and you are somewhere else. I slapped at fish in a shipwreck, walked like a giant through a battlefield, cooked in a virtual kitchen, and it felt so unbelievably real.
With the original Oculus Rift and things like Samsung Gear VR, that sensation of really being somewhere else is present, but fleeting. Those can’t track your body, so as soon as you lean just slightly, the illusion is shattered. The Oculus Rift DK2 did it better, with a motion tracking camera that at least let you lean, but you were still a sort of an armless half-body. Sony’s Project Morpheus improved it further by using controllers keep track of your hands.
But the Vive? It’s like nothing that’s ever come before.
HTC and Valve pulled this sensory illusion off in two ways. First, there’s positional tracking. The HTC Vive uses two sensors you need to hang on the wall at a 90 degree angle. These track you pretty much wherever you are or whatever you do. Crouch, jump, lean, turn your head, tilt, look up, down, left, right, and the system will be able to keep tabs on exactly where you are based on the position of your head.