HTC Vive price, release date, features and specs: HTC Vive approaches 100,000 sales

Game data shows Vive's pre-loaded games are close to 100,000 downloads

Steam VR is Valve’s answer to virtual reality devices like PlayStation VR and the Oculus Rift. Long rumoured to be in the pipeline, Valve’s first virtual reality headset was initially unveiled at Game Developer's Conference 2015.

Gamers everywhere remain hugely excited by the prospect of Valve, operator of the biggest distribution platform in the world and a critically acclaimed developer in its own right, entering the VR space.

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HTC Vive latest news

04/07/2016: HTC Vive is approaching the 100,000 sales mark, three months after launch, according to Steam data (via Road to VR).

Tracking the three games pre-loaded onto HTC Vive headsets, Tilt Brush, Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator, SteamSpy data gives a rough total for how many Vive units its creator Steam has sold.

Tilt Brush, the most popular title of the three pre-loaded games, has been downloaded 94,911 times, Road to VR reports.

With a margin of error of 8,213, this means as many as 103,124 Vive units have sold, or that just 86,698 have.

However, as Road to VR reports, some factors may push the figure higher than it should be – such as SteamSpy’s methodology – it counts Steam accounts that own the games, which could include people with Vive development kits. 

22/06/2016: Valve's VR division makes up around a third of the company, hardware engineer Alan Yates has revealed.

"I was super fortunate to start at Valve right around the time Michael Abrash had begun the AR/VR research team," he told a thread on the HTC Vive subreddit. "It has since grown to encompass about a third of the company."

Yates was effusive about the pleasures of working on VR at Valve. "Short of human space flight or life sciences," he said, "I can't imagine working on something of more significance right now."

He also added that Valve is not resting on its laurels after the launch of the Vive, stating that "the key individuals that solved most of the really hard technological problems and [who] facilitated this generation of consumer headsets are still here working on the next generation."

13/06/2016: Wastelanders rejoice - Bethesda has announced that a VR version of Fallout 4 is coming to the HTC Vive.

Announced at the company's E3 presentation, the game comes courtesy of Bethesda's new, dedicated VR division, which is also producing some as-yet-unspecified VR content for Doom.

The company has yet to reveal how Fallout 4 will work in VR, or what control method it will use. As an open-world RPG, the standard version of Fallout 4 involves a lot of walking around from place to place.

However, outside of the designated playing area, the HTC Vive is not well suited to moving around, and travelling over large distances has proved a challenging obstacle to many VR developers.

Many of the game's core mechanics - such as the VATS system which assists with combat targeting - also appear ill-suited to immersive VR, and may need substantial tweaking prior to the title's 2017 release.

09/06/2016: HTC has just unveiled the HTC Vive Business Edition, aiming to attract enterprise users with a specialised commercial offering.

As well as all the standard features of the consumer edition, the Vive BE will include commercial licensing, a dedicated support line and a 12-month limited warranty.

It will be priced at £849, and will launch in the UK, US, Canada, Germany and France in June, with a global launch to follow. Businesses will also be able to bulk-order the Vive BE for large-scale rollouts.

Although gaming is currently the most visible use-case for VR, many experts and industry analysts are predicting that key vertical markets will quickly overtake it.

"The wider implications for education are huge," said Context's UK manager Jonathan Wagstaff, adding that "other major potential markets include corporate training and retail".

Daniel O'Brien, VP of VR at HTC said, "with Vive BE, we are answering the overwhelming demand from global industries for a complete VR experience, to provide innovative solutions for their business needs. "

"Expediting the growth of partner organisations through application of Vive technology is an incredibly important part of our ongoing VR strategy, and will ensure Vive continues to be at the forefront of the enterprise sector."

"Vive's room-scale VR... is a great way for professional users to work interactively and move around within their designs," said Bob Pette, vice president of professional visualisation at Nvidia. "From design to manufacturing to medicine, virtual reality will revolutionise how business gets done."

08/06/2016: The HTC Vive will now ship to customers as soon as they order it, the company has announced.

Wait times for the headset were around 3 months for those that purchased one at launch, but consumers ordering now will have their unit dispatched within 2-3 business days of purchase.

As well as ordering directly from the HTC Vive website, US customers can also pick one up in-store from select GameStop, Micro Center and Microsoft Store locations.

These stores will also be increasing the number of outlets that feature Vive demo areas, bringing the total to 100.

"Since beginning pre-orders at the end of February and shipping in early April, we've seen incredible interest in Vive," said HTC's vice president of VR, Dan O'Brien.

"Working with our retail partners has only enhanced that momentum because more people are able to try the only truly immersive virtual reality offering on the market today."

06/06/2016: Front Defense, a virtual reality first person shooter (FPS) game for the HTC Vive has been shown off at one of the largest annual tech trade shows, Computex 2016, in HTC's home country of Taiwan.

The game, set in World War II, Front Defense is unusual for the FPS genre, which normally involves the player's character running around and advancing on the enemy. Fantahorn Studio, the game's developer, accepts that this isn't possible unless you want all kinds of mayhem to break out involving Vive-wearers running into their living room walls attempting to avoid virtual bullets. 

So it has flipped the scenario on its head - in Front Defense, it is the player who is being advanced on and who has to defend their position against attack, thus limiting the amount of movement they can (or, indeed, need) to do.

Fantahorn is an "internal startup" within HTC and this is its first game for the Vive. Given the generally positive response it has received so far, though, it probably won't be the last.

26/05/2016: Engineers at Netflix have developed a VR viewing experience for the HTC Vive.

At a biannual hack day, the engineers developed an interface which resembles a video store down to Netflix original content looking like VHS video cassettes.

Users can pick up these tapes and if they decide they want to watch them, they simply hold these items up and a screen emerges out of the walls and ceilings.

More details can be found on the Netflix Tech blog. 

16/05/2016: The HTC Vive has just gone fully wireless, thanks to French company Scalable Graphics.

In a demo video on YouTube, the company showed a user moving around the play area, untethered to the thick, unwieldy cables the Vive usually needs.

The solution, which is still in the prototype stage, is currently a mass of cables and hardware. Despite its unattractive, cobbled-together appearance, however, it appears to work.

Worn on a bandoleer, the kit connects to the headset via the default wiring, and uses 5GHz WiFi to stream data back and forth between the PC and the Vive.

Scalable Graphics is claiming a latency of 16ms, which it claims is indistinguishable from that of the wired version. The company is planning to improve this figure, however, along with the device's two-hour battery life.

While it clearly needs much more work before it gets anywhere near a finalised product, the company's solution shows an awful lot of promise, and could fix one of the Vive's most irritating and persistent problems.

13/05/2016: A month after the launch of the HTC Vive, software sales estimates from Ars Technica's Steam Gauge project can at reveal what are the most popular games are on the HTC Vive right now.

At the top of the list is The Lab, a compilation of Valve’s room-scale VR experiments set in a pocket universe within Aperture Science, giving players the ability to complete a number of tasks: fix a robot, defend a castle, adopt a mechanical dog, and more.

The second most popular game on the Steam network is Surgeon Simulator VR: Meet the Medic, a game that puts in charge of the operating table and in the shoes of the medic to save someone’s life.

Third on the list on the Gauge Project is Heaven Life, an experience in which users explore different virtual worlds. The inspiration for the environments comes from the book "Origins of Architectural Pleasure" in which the welfare is of primary importance.

In fourth place is Water Bears VR followed by the Ikea VR Experience in fifth place.

While it can display the list in order of most popular, the Gauge Project also shows that PC-based virtual reality is taking time to get off the ground, most likely due to the HTC Vive market currently being very limited by lack of hardware in players' homes.

09/05/2016: A new VR peripheral for HTC Vive, and other VR headsets, enables its users to plunge their hands and arms into the virtual world.

Through its new VR glove and body sensors, Manus VR has delivered what it claims is the “first ever” arm tracking in unison with the HTC Vive headset.

The company, based in the Netherlands, demonstrated a prototype of its VR kit last year.

Now it has released footage of an experimental demo where a user’s hand and elbow movements can be tracked in VR.

Though a Vive headset is used in the demo, the company has said it is exploring connectivity with Oculus Rift and the forthcoming PlayStation VR headset as well.

The Vive already has a set of official handheld controllers that enable users to interact with virtual objects according to how the controller is programmed. Manus’s method, however, offers a far more naturalistic manner of manipulating objects in the virtual space.

The company’s VR glove has already been put through its paces with a demo of Bossa Studios’s Surgeon Simulator, and it is not hard to see the benefits that this technology would enable for enterprise VR experiences, which require more precise tactile control.

This new feature will be released as part of the Manus SDK this June.

A release date for the consumer version of Manus has not yet been announced.

28/04/2016: One of the most consistently raised problems with VR is the lack of well fleshed-out games, but HTC has pledged to fix this, with a $100 million accelerator fund for VR developers.

The 'Vive X' program will debut in three locations, launching in San Francisco, Beijing, and Taipei, which is also home to the Taiwanese company's headquarters. More locations will reportedly be added in the future.

As well as investment capital, HTC will also be providing the program's startups with teaching and guidance.

"Our mission is simple," a spokesperson said. "We want to help cultivate, foster and grow the global VR ecosystem by supporting startups and providing them with education, investment and mentorship".

HTC isn't setting up the scheme entirely out of the goodness of its heart, however -- successful applicants to the program will have to give up an undefined "small amount" of equity in their company in exchange.

26/04/2016: HTC has released a companion iPhone app for its VR headset that allows users to receive notifications from their smartphone while engaging in virtual space.

The app lets iPhone owners the chance to perform some unique actions for the first time, including reading text messages and receiving calls, as well as viewing calendar reminders, all within the confines of their virtual world.

“I can finally be in VR and not have to worry about people losing contact with me,” wrote Sho0Fly on the App Store, an early user of the app.

Notifications forwarded by the app appear briefly in the headset’s heads up display (HUD). They can also be selected from the HTC Vive dashboard later. Third-party app notifications are not currently supported by the headset.

As well as downloading the free app, Vive owners must install the HTC Vive client on their PC. Android’s own Vive app is not currently compatible with the iOS version.

HTC Vive users can find the free app on the App Store here.

19/04/2016: Oculus has condemned a software hack that enables HTC Vive owners to run Oculus Rift titles.

News of the Rift-on-Vive software hack emerged last week on a Reddit thread. A group called LibreVR were behind the plug-in, which they named ‘Revive’, and posted it on GitHub. It allows Vive users to play Rift games by “re-implementing functions from the Oculus Runtime and translating them to OpenVR calls”.

Now Oculus has warned that the hack – which requires bypassing the Oculus end user agreement, and possibly Vive’s too – will not be around for long, as it is moving to block hacks such as this in future security updates.

"This is a hack, and we don't condone it," said Oculus, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz. "Users should expect that hacked games won't work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software."

Cross-device play is something that some users are keen to have, but such hacks contravene the terms and conditions of one or more of the parties involved.

Still, hobbyists have, for a long time, been successfully running software hacks to get games and applications to play on systems they were not originally designed for. The Sony PSP famously generated a large homebrew community, which managed to hack 16-bit Nintendo and Sega games onto the portable, staying two steps ahead of Sony’s security patches.

06/04/2016: Ikea has released a pilot version of a virtual kitchen experience for the HTC Vive on Steam.

The app, called Ikea VR Experience, is the Swedish home furnishing maker’s first step into VR technology and is an effort to offer its customers a new way to engage with its products.

“Virtual reality is developing quickly and in five to ten years it will be an integrated part of people’s lives,” said Jesper Brodin, managing director at Ikea of Sweden and range and supply manager at Ikea Group.

“We see that virtual reality will play a major role in the future of our customers. For instance, someday, it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them.”

With the Vive headset on, consumers can explore one of three kitchen room settings, each styled differently. Users can change the colour of cabinets and drawers, and view the kitchen from different perspectives of a 3.3-foot-tall child or a 6.4-foot-tall adult.

Ikea’s VR app was made in conjunction with French development firm Allegorithmic, and was built with Unreal Engine 4.

Ikea plans to continuously update its VR app until the end of its pilot test this August.

16/03/2016: PlayStation VR is half the price of the HTC Vive, it has emerged.

The price and release details for Sony’s headset were finally revealed at GDC 2016, and PSVR has wowed fans and commentators with its $400 price-tag.

Compared to its competitors, the company’s entry into the current virtual reality arms race is surprisingly cheap – it’s less expensive than the Oculus Rift, and is a full 50 per cent cheaper than the $800 HTC Vive.

In fact, many users have noted that for the price of a single Vive unit – without the monster gaming PC required to run it – you can buy both not only PlayStation VR, but also a new PS4 on which to play it.

Sony’s PC-based rivals have been quick to justify their more expensive headsets in the face of new, more affordable competition. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey told GameSpot that the markets for console and PC VR are “almost completely different”.

"People who buy a Rift are people who already own a high-end PC or are willing to buy a high-end PC for VR,” he said. “People who buy a PlayStation VR are people who already own a PlayStation, or… probably already wanted [one] for other reasons”.

“I don't think there are many PC gamers that are going to buy a PlayStation and PlayStation VR from scratch,” explained Luckey, “and I don't think there are many PlayStation gamers that are going to buy a Rift and a high-end PC.”

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