Virtual reality is one of the hottest technologies on show at this year's CES, and HTC has joined the party by announcing a new version of its VR headset, the Vive Pre. It's still only available to developers for the time being, but it includes upgrades and improvements that are eventually going to make their way to the consumer version later this year.
The Vive Pre has been rebuilt from the ground up to improve comfort, ergonomics and performance, all of which should make for a more immersive experience. Considering we were extremely impressed with the original Vive, the Vive Pre should be a real treat for developers working on software and accessories for the headset.
The design has been slimmed down while a redesigned strap system provides "greater stability and balance" according to HTC. The company is also promising brighter, clearer visuals inside the headset, and there's now a choice of foam inserts and noise gaskets so wearers can get a more comfortable fit (even those wearing glasses).
There's also the addition of a forward-facing camera, giving the HTC Vive Pre augmented reality capabilities (much like the Microsoft HoloLens). Not only will the Vive Pre be able to create completely enclosed virtual worlds, it will also be able to add digital elements on top of real life – think cooking directions overlaid in your field of view while staring at the ingredients on your counter.
Finally, the Vive's controllers have been overhauled and enhanced to coincide with the launch of the Pre. HTC says they're more comfortable to hold, make interacting with objects a smoother experience, and offer improved haptic feedback. Controllers are more important than you might think in the world of VR: Oculus' own Touch models have been delayed while the company tries to get them right.
We can't comment on the quality of these improvements until we try the headset (stay tuned ... it won't be long), but on paper it looks like a substantial upgrade for the SteamVR-running headset. HTC says another 7,000 kits are going to be made available to developers, with a consumer launch pegged for April, and we'll be bringing you more about the HTC Vive Pre (and the other VR headsets launching this year) through the course of the week.
Product page: HTC Vive
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