Mar 03, 2015

    Valve teams up with HTC for virtual-reality headset

    WHEN the news broke of Valve's participation in this year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and its intention to reveal new SteamVR hardware, little did we expect HTC to be Valve's hardware partner.

    Although there were rumours about HTC's intention to break into the virtual reality (VR) headset market, no one managed to make the connection between these two companies.

    But with Sunday's announcement, it's finally clear how Valve plans to approach the VR market, which already boasts VR headsets in development or already unveiled by other firms such as Samsung, Sony and Facebook's Oculus Rift.

    The partnership seems to benefit both parties, with HTC being an experienced hardware manufacturer and Valve firmly dominating the gaming market with its 125 million active users in Steam, its online store that sells digital versions of video games.

    HTC claims that the SteamVR head-mounted display, dubbed the HTC Vive, will be the most immersive and premium VR experience in the market. It's said to come with powerful hardware and a comfortable design that allows one to use it for extended periods.

    It'll also feature Steam's Full Room Scale 360 Degree Solution with Tracked Controllers technology, which allows a gamer to explore virtual environments as if they are standing inside the space. This means you can physically walk in the virtual world and inspect objects as you would in the real world.

    The headset will deliver high-quality graphics with up to 90-frames-per-sec video as well as high-fidelity audio.

    HTC will also be introducing wireless VR controllers that will integrate your experience into the virtual environment. It will come in a pair and is designed to work with a wide variety of VR experiences. Unlike typical game controllers, the HTC VR Controllers are said to be intuitive.

    Beyond gaming, HTC and Valve are also looking at extending the use of the HTC Vive headset to travel, education, training, health and fitness, self-improvement, shopping and movies.

    Content creators - including Google, HBO, Lionsgate and the National Palace Museum in Taiwan - are already on board to deliver content.

    The HTC Vive headset is expected to work on all platforms supported on Steam, which means that Mac and Linux systems will be included.

    Valve has already shipped units to selected developers, and we should be expecting game titles that take advantage of the VR headset during its official launch.

    The HTC Vive Developer Edition headset will be available in spring, and the full consumer version is expected to ship at the end of this year.

    Pricing information has not been revealed.