HTC Vive price, release date, features and specs: HTC chooses 26 new startups for its Vive X accelerator

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15/05/2017:Half-life 2: VR coming to Vive and Oculus Rift thanks to mod

Modders have developed a version of Half-Life 2 that works with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets.

The new version includes updated effects, textures, models and maps to make the gamplay more immersive, a UI developed specifically for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, more realistic weapon interactions, including reloading them differently according to the real-life mechanism and motion controller support that means it will work seamlessly with the VR environments. The modding team is also planning to add a whole raft of new features in the near future.

Although there was previously a version available for VR environments, Steam stopped support of it and so fans of the game stopped playing when it went out of date. It meant anyone using a modern VR headset like the HTC Vive were unable to play it at all.

"While Valve had added support for the Rift development kits to their Source engine, as the software that the headsets relied on advanced over time,Valve didn't update the Sourceimplementation, leading to the present situation which is that the mod can't be played on anything but old development kit headsets,"Road to VR reported.

Although Half-Life 2: VR is free to download, anyone wishing to play the game will need players to have Half-Life 2, Episode 1&2 installed before they can start playing it.

12/05/2017:Valve has made it easier for users to watch immersive videos on their VR headsets by releasing a beta version ofSteam 360 Video Player.

The video player allows for instant playback of VR movies and other linear VR shorts and shows including The Hunger Games 360, Lego Batman and (for the braver players) Alien Covenant in Utero.

The player uses Pixvana SPIN Studio technology to stream in virtual reality and this means there is no need to launch a separate application which is what users had to do before.

As it is in beta, Steam have launched acommunity hubfor for questions and discussions of the player.

Valve says that in the minimum specifications for 360 video playback are basically the same for the Virtual Reality HMD. The general specifics are Windows 10, an Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better processor and 50 MB available space. Head to theFAQ pageto see the full specification.

There are four different types of 360 videos on Steam. There is Mono, where the video was captured from a single position in space meaning there is no sense of depth during video playback. Stereo is where the video was captured from two positions and each eye in the VR will see a slightly different image, providing depth and distance in the video. The third type is Equirectangular which captures and playbacks a 360 view in a rectangular photo frame. Lastly, there is FOVAS (Field of View Adaptive Streaming) which is where only the content needed is presented in front of the user's eyes in order to make the most of a reduced network bandwidth. The rest of the 360 view is lower quality and as the user moves their head, different areas are loaded.

06/04/2017:HTC Vive has celebrated it's first birthday yesterday with a"Vive Day"celebration. Customers could redeem a free copy of Vive Studios' game Arcade Saga and new customers could celebrate by purchasing a Vive with a 100 discount (659 as opposed to the standard price of 759). The celebration was only meant to last till the end of the day, but it ended up spilling over into this morning.

At the same time on Steam there is aVR anniversary salewhere you can get huge discounts on games including EVE: Valkyrie, Tilt Brush and more.

HTC also launched its Viveport subscription on the same day which is the first-ever subscription model for a VR app store. Subscribers can discover new content for a monthly fee of $6.99 on the VR app marketplace and it includes a one month free trial for all new users, who get to choose five titles each month to play as well as unlimited access to apps.

03/04/2017:HTC is planning to launch virtual reality-powered ads for its Vive headset users, offering a more immersive experience, while also offering developers and advertisers a better platform with which to attract customers.

"Innovative VR ADs [offer] an unprecedented ad viewing experience, delivering immersive VR environment on cinema-scale screens, and offering interactive elements to further promote user engagement,"HTC said. "Therefore, VR Advertising is not simply an interruption, but a synonym of exceptional experience.

"Ads that appear in immersive VR environments can not only provide more effective impressions, they can also track whether the users have viewed them or have turned away their gaze. Accordingly, the multiplied effect of effective impressions and verified viewings will bring you higher advertising revenue.

HTC said it would be carefully tracking how users interact with the ads and will feedback to developers about their success, helping them work out how to make them better and receive a more favourable response from end users.

The company explained that these ads are more likely to result in conversions for advertisers, making them more profitable in the long run - even if developers have to invest in the format before re-developing their ads for a virtual environment.

"Therefore, promotion of your applications would have much more effective impression, which not only arouses the attention of potential users and enhance brand image, but further attracts interested users directly to download your apps in the VR environment," HTC said.

08/03/2017:HTC is set to open source a full-body tracking system for the Vive, allowing developers to build full-body avatars to represent players.

HTC's president of Vive for China, Alvin Graylin, said that a solution was the company's Chinese research teams is working on a solution to be rolled out to all developers for free once ready, according toUploadVR.

The technology is reportedly a "similar system" to that shown off by Cloudgate Studios, which is built on HTC's new Tracker peripherals - add-on devices that attach to real-world objects allowing them to be tracked and represented in VR environments.

Cloudgate uses the Vive Trackers - which are set to go on sale to developers in late March for $99.99 - to map the player's body, with one attached to the waist and one on each foot.

Graylin was keen to point out, however, that use of full body tracking will not be mandatory, and developers are still free to use whatever control scheme they wish.

03/03/2017:LG has demoed the first prototype of a new VR headset built with Valve at the Game Developers Conference, following confirmation on Monday that the two companies will be working together.

LG is now the second company to make use of Valve's OpenVR platform, following Valve's development of the Vive headset with HTC.

The LG SteamVR headset addresses some niggling problems found on the Rift and HTC Vive. Most notably, the device borrows from the Playstation VR by using an adjustable headband that evenly distributes the weight of the headset.

The display itself is bound to a swivel that allows you to slide it forward and lift it up above your head like a visor. This means you can take a break without the need to remove the headset entirely.

LG has also opted for a single OLED screen at resolution of 1440 x 1280, rather than two separate 1080 x 1200 displays per eye on the HTC Vive, although it matches the Vive's field of view at 110 degrees.

Speaking toArs Technica, LG confirmed it is planning for a late 2017 release, although no price point has yet been decided. LG is also interviewing VR developers for feedback on potential changes to the design.

Competition with two Valve headsets on its open VR platform is also likely to drive down the prices of rival headsets, particularly as Oculus has already announced a $200 price cut on the Rift.

25/11/2016:HTC's President of Smartphone and Connected Devices, Chia-Lin Chang, has revealed the company has sold more than 140,000 units of the Vive VR headset.

"I don't know [how] this 140,000 number came up. It's higher than 140,000. It's much more than that number," Chang said on an earnings call transcribed bySeeking Alpha.

"But I will not be able to give you a number, and I would encourage you guys not to refer that number. That seems to be anchored fully on something that we have no idea where it came from."

"I would never disclose [the exact figure], because this is the best protection of HTC interests, shareholders, in the long term," he added.

"I'm very happy to report to you that we continue to be happy with the current selling condition in last quarter," Chang said.

He also explained the company sells each Vive at a profit, despite critics saying it must be impossible with a price tag of $800 apiece.

18/11/2016:Google is adding a new twist to its Earth app, by allowing HTC Vive users to explore the world in VR.

An app listing onSteam's websiteoutlines some of the system requirements for the app in VR, which can be used on computers running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or later, or Windows 10.

At present, Google Earth VR is only available for HTC Vive users, but it could become available for other VR headsets in future.

Google Earth VR allows users to virtually visit spectacular places around the world, through cinematic tours to destinations such as the pyramids, Grand Canyon, the Amazon River, the Niagara Falls, the Manhattan skyline and more.

Google Earth VR was released on Steam on 16November and can be downloaded for free.

This is one of the latest VR introductions byGoogle after its CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced the company is bringing VR experiences to one million children in UK schools.

The tech giant also introduced its own VR platform, DayDream VR, in October, alongside its new Pixel smartphones. Google said DayDream users can use DayDream to view all YouTube content, even if the video does not have a 360 degrees view. The company also extended this toGoogle Street View and other apps.

14/11/2016:HTC Vive users will soon be offered the possibility of using the headset without wires, purchasing an upgrade kit that costs 175.

HTC Vive partnered with TPCAST in developing the kit, which was created as part of the Vive X Accelerator program; a program ran by the Taiwanese company aimed at improving VR.

This new wireless tool was introduced at e-commerce company Alibaba's 11/11 shopping centre, on Singles day, China's version of Black Friday.

In an interview withWired, China regional president of Vive, Alvin W. Graylin, said: "We are very proud and supportive of teams that develop great accessories and game changing peripherals to the Vive ecosystem. The fact this was developed in such a short time, and delivers such high quality is remarkable. It will allow Vive customers worldwide to gain untethered mobility in VR from their existing devices while satisfying the biggest feature request of potential PC VR customers."

The kit allows HTC users to modify their headsets so that it works without any wires attached.

Other companies such as Quark have also been prototyping wireless adaptors for HTC hardware, but the release date for these has not been disclosed.

HTC and TPCAST have not yet explained how this new addition works, and the kit is currently being marketed as a "preview edition".

Graylin also said the kit offers no noticeable difference in latency, which could suggest the computer will still be processing VR content and sending the signal to the VR headset's add-on.

The kit preview edition is available for pre-orders in China for 1499 (175) and should be delivered in the first quarter of 2017.

It is not clear when the kit will reach the UK.

17/10/2016:Valve's HTC controller prototype has been shown off at last week's Steam Dev Days event, with advanced gesture detection technology that can identify even the smallest of hand movements.

Velcro straps securing the controller to hands aren't a built-in safety device, but a psychological feature that means when you're throwing an object in the virtual world, you can put all your effort into it, because you know the controller won't slip out of your hand. It's more natural than other VR efforts, attendees at the event reported.

"It further breaks down the barriers between people using VR and their experience, and encourages more natural interactions," says Fox Buchele, VR designer and developer at Idean, a brand agency attending the show. "The Vive controllers are definitely abstractions, but the prototype was the first controller I tried that actually felt like my real hand."

Buchele said the experience was better than Vive's main competitor Oculus Touch, even though some interference from the static of he carpet at the event venue made it run a little less fluidly in one hand.

"It really was far more immersive than doing the same scene using the Vive controllers," he toldRolling Stone."It didn't track individual fingers, only the entire hand pose from open to closed, but I was told there isn't a technological restriction keeping them from tracking the individual fingers."

02/09/2016:HTC is apparently developing a wireless version of its Vive headset.

It is working with Valve and Quark VR tocut the cords of the headset, meaning gamers can wander around their entire home, fields or wherever else they wish to roam while playing games using virtual reality.

However, don't go expecting a second version of the HTC Vive quite yet, because Quark was very quick to explain the technology won't be a complete overhaul of the HTC Vive, but will be a stop-gap before the company releases the official upgrade.

Quark said in a statement: "The way the headset will become wireless is through a small gadget, connected to the headset, but not wired with cables to the PC itself. Instead, the small transmitter, that may be placed in the pocket of the user, sends and receives the signal between the PC and the HTC Vive through Wi-Fi."

However, losing the wires isn't necessarily going to change the gaming experience that much, because the fantastical graphics are all down to the computer powering the games, rather than just the headset.

Another problem with using a wireless headset could be latency, as the Wi-Fi signal tries to keep up with not only downloading and rendering the massive game files on the computer, but also transmitting this data to the headset.

"Getting the experience to feel seamless through Wi-Fi, keeping in mind the inevitable connection delay, was a huge challenge, but we're getting extremely close to being able to show it in action!" Quark said.

09/08/2016:HTC has announced a hub for people to discover the latest content on its VR device, Vive.

Fittingly called Viveport, the hub collects virtual reality content across various categories 360 video, news, sport, health, education, shopping and travel.

With a developer beta due to come available in the next few weeks, Viveport will also include an update to Vive Home, HTC Vive users' personalised desktop-like display of their games and features.

Viveport will roll out to users in 30 countries from autumn this year, HTC said, inviting both developers and users to try it out.

Its success will rely on content developers putting their games on the platform, HTC admitted. It referred to vague "monetisation options" and other new features to encourage developers to support the hub.

"Viveport will play an important role in giving access to virtual reality experiences that will enhance our daily lives and the way we connect with friends and family," Rikard Steiber, senior vice president of Viveport, said in ablog post. "The Vive team and our customers cannot wait to see what new experiences will be shared by our partners in the developer community."

01/08/2016:The HTC Vive is going up in price, and it's all thanks to Brexit.

The South Korean company's blog for the virtual reality device confirmed the price hike on Friday, blaming the UK's decision to leave the EU for forcing its hand.

Previously 689, from today the HTC Vive costs 759, after Brexit caused sterling to plummet to a 31-year low valuation against the US dollar it is currently worth just $1.32. It has also devalued significantly against South Korea's own currency, the won, hitting a 10-year low of 1,461 today (value at market close).

Theblog postread: "HTC continuously monitors and adjusts pricing to ensure we are providing our customers with the best value possible. Due to recent currency valuation changes and the current value of the GBP we are adjusting the price of the HTC Vive in the UK to 759 + P&P. The adjustment will come into effect on Monday 1st August.

"We are committed to providing the best possible VR experience with Vive and would like to thank our UK customers and partners for their continued support."

The news comes after OnePlus put up the price of the OnePlus 3 by 20 to 329.

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 onthe 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."

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."

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.