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Reality-checking HTC Vive and SteamVR: 4 crucial questions for the virtual reality headset

Hayden Dingman | March 3, 2015
The Vive headset marks HTC and Valve's first foray into virtual reality. Can it compete with Oculus Rift and Samsung's GearVR? The devil's in the details.

On the other hand, sending video over a wireless signal introduces latency and stuttering. Nobody's figured out how to beam low-latency, high-res video from a PC to a display yet. And at 90 frames per second? Forget about it.

The crux of the matter: The HTC Vive is probably wired in some way, but what does that mean for the much-vaunted 15 ft. movement diameter? Is this secretly Valve's Steam in-home streaming push? Can I go wireless and then stream cutting-edge PC games at 90 frames per second to the device? Not likely. But it's a nice dream.

What is SteamVR, really?
That brings us to the final question: What is SteamVR?

HTC and Valve definitely collaborated on Vive, but Valve also collaborated with about a dozen manufacturers for Steam Machines. Are the base stations "SteamVR"? Is Vive SteamVR? Or is Vive simply a platform that will host SteamVR?

Valve's currently the big unknown in this whole formula, and it's keeping a tight lid on things until GDC gets under way. If Valve shared VR knowledge with HTC, it's not out of the realm of possibility that knowledge was shared with other manufacturers too. Will we see other SteamVR hardware in the near future? Is SteamVR actually just a VR-enabled Steam storefront?

And so many other questions remain. How do HTC and Valve deal with how disorienting it is to walk around with your vision obscured? What happens if I set one of the hand trackers down and just walk away? Will friends and family make fun of me while wearing it?

All important questions, and we'll hopefully have some answers to bring you after our hands-on time later this week. Until then, stay tuned to PCWorld for more GDC coverage all week long, or follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news. Feel free to shoot me your questions, compliments, and displeasures.

 

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