|Category||Virtual Reality Devices|
|Developer||HTC Corporation (in cooperation with Valve Corporation)|
|Announced||1 March 2015 |
|Released||Developers: 2014 
Consumers: 5 April 2016 
|Price||800 USD  (business edition costs 1200 USD)|
|Operating system||none (works with Windows, Linux, OS X)|
|Field of view||110110 °
|Weight||555 g |
The HTC Vive is a virtual reality device, developed by HTC and Valve. It is a wearable device and belongs in the head-mounted displays' category. It was shipped as the first virtual reality device that allows the user to directly act and physically move in virtual reality thanks to its positional tracking system. The user interacts with virtual reality through the headset, controllers, and base station sensors. The whole system has to be linked to a considerably powerful computer in order to achieve smooth image rendering. The safety of users is secured by the Chaperone system. The system displays the real surroundings when needed and warns the users if they approach to an obstacle too closely to prevent injury.
The HTC Vive was primarily created as an entertainment device, but its developer has ambitions to educate and enhance the abilities of its users. The use of HTC Vive in business or therapy has been taken into account at present. There are also great expectations that virtual reality devices like the HTC Vive could bring a new approach to the visualisation of scientific models. The wide range of its potential is mirrored in the various partners of the project. These partners include Google, Lionsgate, HBO, and BMW.
The HTC Vive is fully enclosed but needs to be connected to a personal computer; hence it is not a standalone device. It has a total resolution of 2160 x 1200 pixels, and contrary to other headsets, it has an aspect ratio of 9:5. The refresh rate of images is 90Hz, and the field of view is approximately 110°. The HTC Vive consists of a head-mounted display, two controllers, two base station sensors, and ear buds, and it is shipped with copies of the video games Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, and a 3-D painting tool Tilt Brush. The headset is made from black plastic with 32 sensors placed on its surface. The sensors locate various directions in order to enable a precise tracking of users' movements. In the middle of the headset is a frontal camera that is a part of the Chaperone system. The optics of the headset are mediated by two Fresnel lenses that are considerably lighter than standard lenses. The headset fits all shapes of faces and glasses can be worn by the user since the specific settings are adjusted by a foam lining. Headphones are not a part of the headset. Users could use their own or they could use ear buds that are shipped with the headset. The headset is linked with users' computers by cables.
In addition to the headset, virtual reality is affected by two wireless motion controllers. They are crowned by a circular motion sensor and contain buttons and touchpads that allow various ways of interaction in virtual reality. Recently, rumours have ememrged that HTC developed another type of controller that is more similar to a human hand, called Manus VR, but this has not been shipped with the HTC Vive at present. The tracking of all the sensors is provided by two base station sensors. They have to be installed in the opposite corners of the virtual reality field, where the user will be moving. In order to track them precisely, they have to be placed on high and stable spots. The recommended area of the virtual reality field is approximately 2 x 1.5 m (6.5 x 5 feet).
Because of this combination of sensors, the HTC Vive was the first virtual reality device that truly enabled free movement in virtual reality. In order to make movement in virtual reality as safe as possible, HTC and Valve invented the Chaperone system. It contains several functions that are supposed to protect the users from injury while using the device. First, it shows users a blue network, the boundaries of their virtual reality environment, should they leave the area bounded by the base stations. Second, it enables users to see the shapes of the real environment around them upon request through the camera embedded in the middle of the headset. This makes them see whether an obstacle is too close to them.
The HTC Vive could be linked with a mobile phone, and users can received massages or send simple answers while in virtual reality.
The price of the device is 800 USD. In many cases, it also requires further investment into a personal computer, since the recommended specifications for such a system are considerably demanding. Namely:
- Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better
- 4GB or more
- HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
- 1x USB 2.0 or better port
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
The main purpose of the HTC Vive is to entertain and educate its users. It also provides a working field for artists, scientists, and businessmen. Its possible use in therapy has been significantly taken into consideration at present.
Company & People
The HTC Vive project is a conjunction of two projects which HTC and Valve ran separately. They conjoined their projects in 2014.
- Peter Chou: HTC’s former Chief Executive Officer who started the project, retired
- Cher Wang: HTC’s Chief Executive Officer
- Gabe Logan Newell: Valve’s Chief Executive Officer
- Claude Zellweger: HTC’s Head of Design
- Chet Faliszek: Valve’s Writer, Key Virtual Reality Evangelist, and Developer Relations Liaison of the HTC Vive
- Dan O'Brien: HTC's Vice-President of Virtual Reality, Planning, and Management
- Phil Chen: HTC’s Chief Content Officer and Founder of the HTC Vive
- Joel Breton: HTC's Vice-President of Virtual Reality Content Development
- 2012: Valve started a development of their head mounted device
- 2013: HTC started advancing their virtual reality device
- 2014: HTC and Valve created a conjoint project
- 20 October 2014: The developers were invited to join the project
- 1 December 2014: The first developer kit entitled '-v1' was produced
- 1 March 2015: The HTC Vive was first announced at the Mobile World Congress 2015
- 6 January 2016: A developed version entitled HTC Vive Pre was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016
- 29 February 2016: Pre-order started
- 5 April 2016: Shipping started
- 10 June 2016: The Business Edition started to ship
Since virtual reality devices such as the HTC Vive allow simulating situations from architecture, engineering or chemistry, which are safe and realistic at the same time, they possess various possibilities in these fields of study. In addition, designers from BMW appreciated HTC Vive’s precise tracking, which could simplify their work. The 3-D models are also considerably less expensive than clay models that were used previously.
Researchers claim that virtual reality has a great pedagogical potential. The positive impact that virtual reality has on the educational process was tested for several years. However, researchers argue that new devices like the HTC Vive could provide more compelling experiences. These devices are also more accessible to users.
Studies have been performed on the therapeutic use of virtual reality in cases of stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the reduction of pain. Nonetheless, a different virtual reality device was used in most of the research. There is, however, one exception; the Deep VR developed an app that reduces stress and anxiety and was developed and tested on devices Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Besides the virtual reality device, it requires a snug-fitting sensor that monitors the user’s breathing.
Researchers also took into account the treatment of sexual offenders in virtual reality. This could, however, oppose laws in certain countries, which prohibit sexual representations, especially the images of nude children.
The health risks of HTC Vive could be divided into two sections. One section is health issues that stem from virtual reality, described as cybersickness. Cybersickness is a bulk of symptoms that include headache or nausea. The majority of virtual reality devices could cause these symptoms to a greater or lesser extent. Certain reviewers argue that the HTC Vive does not cause cybersickness, or report that their symptoms were milder. However, a comprehensive study of this phenomenon with a larger group of respondents is needed for any conclusive claim.
Second, there are health risks that are the result of motion (even though the Chaperone system should eliminate a majority of them). The HTC Vive could endanger users by causing them fall over cables or injure their limbs. Bystanders could also be hurt if they stand too close to the user. All the health risks are carefully described in the HTC Vive’s Safety and Regulatory Guide.
We found no ethical issues related to the HTC Vive directly, but those applicable to virtual reality devices in general could be applied to the HTC Vive as well, especially video games are intensively discussed. Although there are controversies such as addiction to video games or micro transactions, the greatest issue is the violence some video games contain. In addition, it was pointed out that virtual reality devices such as the HTC Vive make the entire experience more intense, and therefore the negative impact of certain content could be worse.
Public & Media Impact and Presentation
There is a considerably large amount of reviews on the HTC Vive. However, a majority of them discuss certain specific features. Negative aspects of the device has been identify as its enormous price, its demanding space requirements, the weight of the device, the challenging setup of the device, and the fact that really attractive games have not been developed yet. In contrast, reviewers approve that the HTC Vive offers the most appealing experience of VR so far, that it does not cause cybersickness (or that its symptoms are milder), and that the HTC Vive provides various uses of the device outside the virtual gaming realm, such as engineering, industry or military purposes.
Regarding price, although many would agree with a reviewer named Shanks007, who on Microsoft Store eagerly claims '...this device is worth every penny I spent on it.', there are also voices who argued that the device is too pricey. Lewis Painter from TechAdvisor claims: 'We're not so sure about the value of the HTC Vive at this price, especially when you add the P&P price on top of the new price tag, totalling £816.60. It was just about justifiable at £689 and while the HTC is fantastic, we're not sure it's worth this much...'.
Since certain apps for the HTC Vive require 15 x 15 feet of space, reviewers point out that such a huge space without obstacles is not commonly found in households. Duncan Bell from T3 remarks: 'In fact, I'd go so far as to say that about 2.5m x 2m would be my recommended space. And in most British, urban homes, certainly in London, that is a LOT of space. Then again, you've just shelled out 700 quid for a gaming accessory. Maybe you're minted.'
In addition, Vive's headset is quite heavy, as many reviewers reported. Among others, an expressive description is provided by Michael Nunez from Gizmodo: 'The HTC Vive’s goggles are heavy—noticeably heavier than the Oculus Rift’s. They’re heavier than a bike helmet, heavier than a baseball cap, heavier than scuba goggles, and probably heavier than anything you’ve ever put on your face'. He adds immediately: 'But it’s a small price to pay for walking around in a virtual space, especially if you’re excited about it, so most people will probably disregard the excruciating weight of the plastic headset'.
Although certain difficulties with plugging IN and installing the devices were reported, the majority of objections are directed against SteamVR. For example, Adi Robertson from The Verge argues: 'Digging through Steam’s system menus has never been particularly convenient, and it’s even harder with a bulky pair of goggles. Especially compared to the simple, locked-down Oculus Home software, SteamVR is the Linux of virtual reality — a powerful system that offers a lot of freedom at the expense of user-friendliness.'
Valve's involvement in the project raised great expectations concerning virtual reality games. These expectations have not been entirely fulfilled yet. For instance, Michael Nunez argues: 'The games are weak. Let’s just hope that Valve steps up to the plate and creates VR games for popular titles like Portal and Half-Life'. However, this problem might be solved in future.
Some enthusiastic approvals of the HTC Vive were already mentioned. Many reviewers considered the HTC Vive to be a revolutionary device in approaching VR. Disney's animator Glen Keane publicly supported the HTC Vive, highlighting the fact that a user could create 3-D paintings through its app Tilt Brush; or Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica claims: 'The fact that you can touch your environment in the Vive—the agency imparted by the fact that you can literally reach out with your hands and do things in-game that you do in real life—overpowers all the other system differences'.
As was mentioned in the section 'Health Risks', reviewers generally reported that the users of the HTC Vive are not as susceptible to cybersickness as users of other VR devices.
The HTC Vive's use in fields other than VR games was already mentioned in the section 'Enhancement/Therapy/Treatment'. Adi Robertson especially highlights: 'Virtual reality has a long history in fields like architecture, industrial design, and military training, and the solid, no-nonsense Vive can replace older solutions like CAVE rooms at a fraction of the cost'.
There was a controversy among the users of HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift project. The anti-piracy technology of the Oculus Rift made Oculus-exclusive apps inaccessible for them. However, Libre VR recently bypassed this.
We have not recorded any public policy in regards to the HTC Vive. The possible restriction of its use is mentioned in sections 'Enhancement/Therapy/Treatment'.
Related Technologies, Projects or Scientific Research
Users can purchase their apps in SteamVR, virtual reality's counterpart of Valve's Steam.
There are two projects that are related to the HTC Vive at present: HTC Vive Business Edition and Manus VR. The former has been already shipped. The trackers which resembles Manus VR were announced in March 2017.
HTC announced Vive's Trackers and audio straps. They will be available for developers at 27th March 2017.
The HTC Vive wireless kit was announced at Alibaba’s '11/11' in Shenzhen, China. It should be shipped by the beginning of 2017, and the cost will be 220.33 USD. It crated a great hype, since the wires considerably limit VR devices. It should have been shipped in Q1 of 2017, but HTC unveiled a mobile VR headset instead.
Software developer Drew Gottlieb introduced a project connecting HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens into a shared reality. Although the concept is just a prototype at the moment, it already combines virtual reality and augmented reality.
There is no scientific research regarding specific ethical issues or health risks of the HTC Vive, but certain research concerning virtual reality devices or even virtual reality in general may apply.
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