So it's finally here. After years of hype, multiple pre-release candidates and of course a mountain of speculation, the first batch of VR devices from Occulus and HTC have at long last started rolling out to consumers world wide.
While Occulus and HTC certainly aren't the only vendors who will compete in this new product segment, it's definitely fair to say that at the moment they are the clear market leaders. Both have strong ties to big partners (HTC with Steam, Occulus with Facebook), so it's going to be fascinating to watch over the coming months and probably years which of the two can establish themselves as the preferred gaming VR device.
HTC's foray into virtual reality has certainly been swift. The Vive was only announced in March last year, with consumer editions available for pre-order 12 moths later and units shipping since April 2016 (starting in the US). To say HTC's development of the Vive has been rapid would be an understatement when you compare it to the Rift. In some form or another Occulus' headset has been in development since 2011, with it's first units (at the time of writing), slated to start shipping come April/May this year. Now obviously you can't read too much into that, Occulus being the pioneers here spent most of that time in the research and development phase (which no doubt has helped HTC) as well as waiting for the technology to both mature and become cost effective. Lets also not forget, in that time they did also ship two versions of the developer headset, but enough of the history lesson lets get back to the Vive.
The Vive is the first final consumer edition we've laid our hands on so while we'll be able to make some basic comparisons to the Rift, we certainly won't be making any wild recommendations just yet on 'which is better'. We'll reserve that judgement once we've had a chance to test the final consumer version of the Rift. What we can do is certainly look at the Vive as a device in it's own standing, as an experience and most importantly what that exactly that means to us in the sim racing world at the moment.
The gaming world has earmarked 2016 as 'the year of VR' and while the technology is finally starting to land in consumers hands, the question is will these first generation devices be the game changer they've been promised to be? More importantly as sim racers, what is the experience like with VR? Is this the next must have peripheral or just a passing fad? Where excited to find out!