HTC and Valve have used the CES 2016 platform to introduce and show off the second generation HTC Vive and associated development kit, the 'Vive Pre'. This refined version of the VR (virtual reality) offering includes refined ergonomic hardware plus a front mounted camera allowing for AR (augmented reality) experiences to be implemented.
So what are the key enhancements on offer with the new headset? Brandon Chester from AnandTech had time to try out the headset and was told that it had been "redesigned from the ground up to be more compact and fit more comfortably onto your head while also being more stable". Those kinds of ergonomics are important for prolonged use of the wearable headset. Inside, the twin displays are said to offer brighter imagery and the lens system has been tweaked to provide greater clarity.
An important additional feature in the Vive Pre comes from the addition of a front mounted camera feed, so you can see the room 'through' the headset. This implementation opens up the possibility of AR experiences using the Vive Pre.
Controllers have also been tweaked; textured buttons provide more positive tactile feedback and the triggers are now dual stage for multiple holding states. Haptic feedback is provided to your touchy feely actions via the controllers. In use the reporter happily says that head tracking latency was very low and the experience of immersion was compelling.
To get developers up and running with the Vive Pre seven thousand development kits will be sent out to game makers and other creatives later this month. We don't have a firm price or launch date for a consumer edition of the Vive but it is expected to turn up in April with the enhancements present in this Vive Pre dev kit.
In related news, HP has announced it will build Envy Phoenix gaming PCs specially tuned for users to enjoy virtual reality via HTC and Valve's Vive experience. The computers feature a choice of Intel i7 K-series processor and choice between AMD Radeon R9 390X or the NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti for graphical grunt. HP's specially tailored VR PCs will become available from 16th January, priced from $1,700 upwards.