First announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March and recently shown at GDC 2015 the VIVE is looking to be the first decent consumer grade VR device to offer something a little different.
Unlike other upcoming VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus and GEAR VR the VIVE which is being developed by Valve in partnership with HTC uses 2 1200x1080 90Hz displays in a portrait (vertical) orientation rather than 1 screen in landscape (horizontal) . The benefit of this design is a boost in vertical field of view while the horizontal FOV is still on par with Oculus Cresent Bay prototype at 110 degrees.
VIVE will also be paired with Valves new room scale tracking system codenamed "Lighthouse" as-well as a new prototype Steam VR controller.
The Lighthouse tracking system uses 2 base stations positioned in opposite corners of the room. These base stations use laser tracking to determine your position with sub-millimeter accuracy. This allows for full freedom of movement, no longer will you be stuck in a seated position or limited to the range of a tracking camera.
Allowing you to move freely within a confined space brings up one major issue, how to prevent those immersed in a virtual world from leaving the limits of their play space and running into surrounding obstacles. Valve have solved this with their chaperon system which displays a translucent grid within the virtual environment that fades in and out as you move towards the boundaries of the room.
The new prototype VR wand controllers add another element of awesome. With one held in each hand Lighthouse can track your exact hand position and orientation allowing interaction with the virtual environment. Each controller has a thumb controlled circular track-pad, a trigger on the underside and pressure sensitive squeeze activated buttons along both sides of the hand grip.
The controllers also include haptic force actuators on triggers and track-pads which deliver precise, high-fidelity vibrations to your fingertips delivering feedback about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, or actions allowing you to feel the spin of a virtual trackball, the click of a scroll wheel, or the shot of a rifle.
The controllers on the final consumer version of VIVE will be wireless but the headset itself will still be tethered to a PC. With a an expected release in the last quarter of 2015 and the final price still unknown I know what I'll be saving for this Christmas.