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World’s most immersive virtual reality system available for preorder — but it’s pricey

·Technology Editor

It’s been a long wait, but you can finally preorder the most immersive virtual reality headset on the planet — the HTC Vive — starting today. Of course, you might want to double-check your credit card balance first, because the Vive will cost you a cool $800.

Hey, no one ever said virtual reality would be cheap.

The Vive is a collaborative effort between smartphone maker HTC and video game behemoth Valve, which also developed the Steam online gaming portal and marketplace.

What sets the Vive apart from competitors like the Oculus Rift (which costs $200 less) is that it’s a room-scale virtual reality system. Meaning that, as you move and walk around in real life, your movements are incorporated into whatever game you’re playing.

For instance, if you have to duck under a table in a game, you’ll actually have to duck in the real world. And if you want to walk over a bridge, you’ll need to take some real steps.


The system, though, limits the “room” where you can make these movements to an area of 15 feet by 15 feet. Two tracking base stations — which you have to install in the room where you’ll use the Vive — track your movements. Movement data is then sent to your PC, which translates it into on-screen action.

This room-scale approach generates a huge amount of data — too much, in fact, to transmit wirelessly. That means you have a bunch of wires sticking out of the back of your headset, which could potentially trip you up as you move around. Of course, the Vive can also be used while seated, if you don’t want to worry about that particular hazard.

You are there (for a price)

I’ve test-driven the Vive several times, with a variety of games, and it is easily the most immersive experience you can get from a gaming system. Physically interacting with a game world via your own movements never seems to get old. In fact, the first time I used the Vive, it felt like a religious experience.


But $800 is a lot to ask, especially when you consider the fact that you’ll need a top-of-the-line PC to run the Vive.

What will that 800 bucks get you? Well, there’s obviously the headset, a pair of wireless controllers, two base stations, a link box that connects everything to your PC, earbuds, and other assorted Vive accessories. You also get three complimentary games: Job Simulator, Fantastic Contraption, and Tilt Brush.

Job Simulator is hilarious; I haven’t yet played Fantastic Contraption. Tilt Brush, however, is an incredible art game developed by Google that lets you draw and paint in 3D. So when you’re done with your work, you can actually step into it and view it from any number of angles. Even people who have no interest in virtual reality or gaming will enjoy it.

If you’re interested in preordering the Vive, you’ll first want to consult our handy guide to see if your computer can even run the system. You can also check out HTC and Valve’s own system-tester.

If your computer can handle it, head over to HTCVive.com and get your order in before they sell out.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.