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HTC to make virtual reality leap on Leap Day

You can preorder the HTC Vive starting February 29, although it won't actually come out until April.

Virtual reality has been an exercise in patience.

The technology, which uses a special headset and sophisticated imagery and sounds to place you inside a digital world, has seen no shortage of hype over the last several years. More tangible details like pricing and availability have been harder to come by. Oculus, a unit of Facebook, only last week unveiled the $599 price tag of its Rift system, and now it's HTC's turn to offer a tease.


CNET editor Scott Stein tests out the Vive headset.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Taiwanese company best known for making slick-looking phones such as the HTC One M9, said Monday that it would make its Vive VR headset available for preorder on February 29. The system is supposed to hit the market in April. The Telegraph earlier reported on the preorder date.

But there's still no price yet. An HTC spokesman said that would be revealed closer to late February.

Virtual reality has been tagged as one of the big tech trends of 2016 as gadget makers finally bring their VR devices to the consumer market. The technology is far from the old take on VR, seen in cheesy films such as 1992's "The Lawnmower Man." It's far more convincing and immersive. It's an area that has attracted heavy hitters such as Facebook, Samsung, Sony and Google.

HTC has partnered with gaming company Valve to put out the Vive, which sets itself apart by providing a system that allows you to get up and walk around a small area. Other systems have focused on keeping you standing or sitting.

Two separate sensors in the room track the motion of your headset and the two wireless controllers for your hands, allowing you move freely in the virtual world. HTC showed off the latest version of the Vive, a developer-only iteration called the Vive Pre, at CES last week.

The Vive Pre adds a front-facing camera that lets users see the real world in front of them to help prevent collisions with obstructions like a wall or couch.

While the company has been mum on price, it's likely to exceed that of the $599 Oculus Rift. Dan O'Brien, head of the VR project at HTC, said the company sought to build the best system in the market, suggesting a premium over the competition.

In addition to the cost of the system, high-end VR rigs like the Oculus and Vive systems require a powerful gaming PC to power them. The PC alone could cost around $1,000. Both companies have said that more affordable computers are coming to market that will be able to run these systems.