Want to be one of the first people to walk around and grab things in virtual reality? Hope your wallet is ready. You can now preorder the HTC Vive.
The Australian price: $899. Yes, that's US dollars for some strange reason, which makes it around AU$1,260. That's not including the estimated $110 shipping cost, which is around AU$155 right now. So, just around AU$1,400 all up. The first batch of headsets will ship on April 5, and you can order one right here.
Update, 7:18 p.m. PT: The first batch of units appears to have sold out. New buyers are now seeing ship dates in May, rather than April.
Why so much money? There's a good reason: The HTC Vive is the first "room-scale" virtual reality experience you can buy.
Developed in partnership with Valve, the company behind the Steam gaming platform (not to mention popular games such as Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress and DOTA 2), the Vive is the first VR headset to come with a motion-tracking system that lets you walk around a room-sized chunk of virtual reality instead of standing still or sitting in a chair.
Like the $599 Oculus Rift -- its closest competition -- the Vive needs to be physically tethered to a powerful gaming PC (not included) to transport you to another world. But where the Oculus Rift will ship with only a standard Xbox One gamepad to control your games and a camera to mirror the movements of your head, the Vive comes with two wireless motion controllers to let you reach out and grab things in virtual reality and a pair of Lighthouse base stations to keep you from bumping into walls. (Oculus also has a set of motion controllers, known as Oculus Touch, but they won't be available till the second half of the year.)
For a limited time, the Vive also comes with three free VR titles: Fantastic Contraption, a game where you solve puzzles by building zany mechanical objects; Job Simulator, a tongue-in-cheek take on the year 2050 when robots have replaced human workers; and Tilt Brush, a program where you can create beautiful 3D art by painting with light. (Watch famous former Disney animator Glen Keane give it a try.)
Here are the specs of the PC you'll need to build or buy to get an optimal experience:
VR-ready system recommendations
|Oculus Rift||HTC Vive|
|CPU||Intel i5-4590 or equivalent||Intel i5-4590, AMD FX-8350 or equivalent|
|Graphics||Nvidia GTX 970, AMD R9 290||Nvidia GTX 970, AMD R9 290|
|Video output||HDMI 1.3||HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2|
|USB ports||3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0||1x USB 2.0|
|Operating system||Windows 7 SP1 or newer||Windows 7 SP1 or newer|
You can also try Valve's official SteamVR Performance Test benchmark to see if your PC is ready.
Neither Valve nor HTC have promised a huge slate of titles for the Vive quite yet -- unlike Oculus, which claims it will have 100 titles available by the end of 2016, including around 20 titles which Oculus is producing and financing itself. That said, many early VR developers are already committing to several VR platforms, with games like Job Simulator coming to the Oculus Rift and even Sony's PlayStation VR. You can also browse an early list of Vive games right here.
Speaking of the PlayStation VR, it could be a cheaper way to get into virtual reality gaming if the Oculus and HTC prices are scaring you away. While we don't know what it costs quite yet or precisely when it might ship, it only requires a relatively inexpensive ($350, £300, AU$480) PlayStation 4 instead of a gaming PC.
And if you don't need to be quite as immersed in virtual reality, there's always Samsung's inexpensive Gear VR, which lets you transform a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5 or the upcoming Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge into a surprisingly capable headset.
But if you want to be on the bleeding edge of virtual reality, the time is now. Will you buy a Vive? A Rift? Neither? Both?
Full disclosure: My wife works for Facebook, owner of Oculus VR -- whose Oculus Rift headset will be competing with the HTC Vive.