A year ago Oculus Rift seemed to be the most promising start-up on the market of virtual reality technologies. At that time people were perfectly aware of its main rival’s name – an ambitious helmet by Sony – Project Morpheus. It was the releases of these two companies that were percolating minds of geeks and gamers, developers of applications and owners of various attractions like 4D cinemas. Sony’s offspring attracted the audience by more advanced gaming technologies, while Oculus was just considered to be the leader of VR market! It offered to the community almost infinite options of using virtual reality and creation! All the rest gadgets could not do anything but stagger behind it.
While two high-tech grands were locking horns with each other, there loomed one more competitor on the horizon – HTC Vive helmet developed by a cognominal Taiwan company in collaboration with game developers from Valve. Since the first half of 2014 this unusual duo has steadily been revealing the secrets of the Vive device to users.
First of all guys from HTC told them about a unique manipulating system of Vive. Then they lifted the veil over the Lighthouse spatialization technology…
And recently they have even promised to gift their gadget to all the developers interested in this software!
HTC Vive as the main threat to Oculus Rift
As a result a HUGE number of Oculus' and Sony's fans just fell in love in their direct rival. And noew it is HTC Vive to be more and more often mentioned as the most rival of the great Oculus. Many people even consider its possibilities supreme over Rift's ones.
The presonnality of Gabe Newell, the founder of Valve and developer od the eternal «Half Life», is certain to serve as a catalizator for HTC Vive's surge in popularity. A man, a vast majority of gamers on the Earth are swearing to, blessed and approved of the HTC project. Moreover, he is its main ideologist.
What can respond the reigning champion Oculus to this challenge? Who enjoys currently a better momentum? Unfortunately, none of these models has not entered the market yet, so we can only judge of the potential of the developments… But, why not? So, we present to you a clash of expectations: Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive.
Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive: comparing the basic characteristics
What does the quality of immersion into virtual reality primarily depend on? Right you are, it depends on picture characteristics and the format of helmet's work with the picture. Even in this aspect the models have different performance.
Currently HTC Vive is using a 5,2'' display. Oculus has a more modest 5'' one. You are likely to feel such a difference as the screen is to be holding in several centimeters from your eyes! Instead Oculus confirmed the information about their using of OLED matrix (the best option for consumers), while their opponents don't reveal the characteristics of their matrix. If HTC lags behind its rival in this aspect, it is certain to loose this displays race.
And now a couple of words about the screen resolution. Oculus has alreadt got used to boasting its considerable values of 1920x1080 p. It is cool while Sony Project Morpheus, their famous competitor, has shows the same performance. Vive developers went even further, dividing the picture for two eyes… So each virtual screen performs 1080x1200 for each eye! It is a bold decision dur to which guys from HTC enjoy supremacy over Oculus.
The reported screen updates and the viewing angle are the same by both competitors: 90 FPS and 110 grades respectively. This is the only visual parameter providing a total draw in this mortal kombat…
As far as weight is concerned, they seem to be quite similar:the Valve deviceis going to weight only 30 or 40 g more than Oculus.
How can VR helmets allow us to control the virtual world?
So, an ideal virtual space has emerged in front of you… What now? You are to do something with all this beauty made by cool displays and a complex system of lenses! What options to interact with virtual reality dot the gadgets provide us with?
Both Oculus and Vive have a common set of spatialization sensors typical for all VR devices.Particularly, these are a gyroscope sensor and accelerometer. That's all with similarities, this is where author's technologies registered by the two high-tech grands start.
Apart from the gyroscope and accelerometer, Oculus possesses a magnetometer and IR spatialization sensors. All they are connected to a microcontroller of the ARM Cortex-M3 system.
The data rendered by the processor provides a quick and accurate spatialization of your head. Difficulties emerge when you move not only your head, but also legs, hands or simple movements of your body in virtual world! Actual space accessible for an Oculus user is a small 2x2 m square… Not much! They should work it out. For these ends Oculus integrate a Leap Motions camera into the helmet, however it is unknown whether it proves a successful solution…
HTC and Valve, in their turn, reslves this problem at the very beginning! The device will be equipped with a basis Steam VR station which can create a 3D model of a virtual room and will make it possible to move within this space withour using a controller. A pair of such stations will track a user's position in the room of 21m2 (against 4m2 by their rival).
To make it possible two special sensors are to be installed on the wall at a 90-grade angle! Wether you are walking, jumping, bending, turning your head, watching upwards, downwards, on the left or on the right, the system is perfectly aware of where you are, determining the position of your head. Were you to get around a prohibited area (wall of a room, sharp corners of furniture), there will emerge a restrictive grid on the screen! The edge of the space, like in the «13th floor» film.
The system of virtual hands by HTC Vive as a finishing shot at Oculus
The system of virtual hands, accessible for Vive users, can also be called a finishing shot at Oculus. These are joystick sticks reminding of nunchaku joysticks for Nintendo wii. They are equipped with touch panels and nab buttons intended for various activities… Despite a test status of manipulators, quite complimentary reviews and guides on their usage can be alreadyfound on the Web!
Let's sum it all up! It is possible to run, jump, grab, throw and shoot in the Vive universe! While Oculus allows its proprietor to make the simplest movements only. So, this round is won by Vive.
Although, Rift developers are rumoured to be working on their response to the competitors, which is a new VR gamepad! Many experts even draw a connection between a long delay in the manufacture of an Oculus model for the market and troubles in developing comfortable controllers and tracking systems… But these rumours have no ground, there are even no simple insides.
Games and software for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
Supposing both gadgets would have reached a balance between picture quality and comfortable control over virtual universe by the official date of release. And what now? Whom will software and games developers collaborate with? Anyway, users won't waunder around colourful demos by the manyfacturers all the time. In the end, the winner will be a device that would provide people with the widest range od attractions and useful content.
What could it be? First of all, games! Secondly, games, too… Still the highest rate of demand on VR technologies is expected to be delivered by gamers. It is not in vain that a lot of game developers even now start studying the working principles of virtual reality. Thirdly, fourthly and fifthly, it will be some education and single-discipline applications. Perhaps somebody will be eager to travel with the help of VR helmets ot use them to watch movies…
What developers is able to provide their fans with 1001 delight?
Currently Oculus enjoys a certain advantage in this aspect. It appeared far earlier than Vive and took its time to make friends among the biggest companies and not only from the IT world. Scientists and doctors, the military and representatives of museums, astronauts and manufacturers of robots have expressed their interest in products by Oculus Rift. Probably, some of them have already concluded contracts with Facebook (the new owners of the development) on manufacturing various kinds of simulators and education products. Perhaps, this single-discipline niche of the market will belong to Oculus forever? Kind of success. But it is not as significant as the popularity rate among the audience. And for this you need games, games and more games!
Oculus has also enough preliminary agreements with developers of games (the gadget already supports Doom4, Doom 3: BFG Edition, Team Fortress 2 etc.).
But Vive is likely to beat its rival in this aspect. Still, they are backed by genius Gabe Newell and Steam, a grand of gaming distribution. The rumor that the release of a long-awaited “Half Life III” is going to be connected with the release of Gabe’s helmet deserves a special notice! If it is true, the Vives are likely to be snapped up by their fans all over the world.
Otherwise the advantage will be by the side of Steam. Its connections and reputation are crucial.
Our expert and friend, Dr. Anatom (an experienced gamer) agrees with this statement:
«Currently Vive looks like a far more promising development. Controllers give more gaming liberty as ordinary gamepads won't suit the helmet… I also like better the idea of a basic station . In the end, the combination of Valve's experience and support and Steams' marketing channels represents their best card! As a gamer, I choose an HTC device, at least now!»
HTC's advertising offering a free destribution of the gadget among the developers of games plays also a very important role. By this move the company demonstrates its strategic aims which consist in making a bid on a gaming helmet and provide a maximal comfort for third-party developers!
What could respond Oculus in such a case? Firstly, it can develop a more comfortable gaming space, including software. Secondly, it can ensure interoperation with social applications. Why not? Their owner, Facebook, is already launching in their Network interoperation with panoramic video intended for Rift. The popularity of communcation and interactive cooperation will be present at least in a hundred-year time… That means that in this field there will be place for VR experiments!
Weak points of HTC Vive helmet
HTC Vive has a lot of advantages over their rivals' developments. But they have enough problems of this company.
Firstly, HTC has recently had a lot of troubles. It is about staff problems. Over the sole past year several people at once connected diectly with the project quitted the office. Peter Chow (company's exectuive director) lost his office and became head of the department of new developments, which was an awful failure and delivered a heavy blow to his reputation! By the way, it is he who is in charge of the Vive project now!
All this emerges amid the significant decline in revenue of HTC, which is due to their failures on the smartphones market. These troubles might seem not to concern virtual reality helmets directly… But all the processes are intertwined in the business at such a high level! One «odd» person in the team of developers, unskilful financing, reducing expenditure on the development, and we have no more a gadget of dreams but its poor parody…
We don't want to be known as prophets of failures, but ignoring these challenges would mean to commit a sin against the truth!
Among more shaped problems of the Vive project are the necessity to minimize the size of wall sensors and get rid of wires between joysticks and the helmet itself. Currently these problems are still to be resolved (this is what the Taiwanian developers themselves admit). The very sensors look like shoes boxes while every unhandiness in our era of usability is a serious disadvantage of a gadget. Moreover, nobovy would love to control a game snarling in the wires of strange gamepad sticks… So, HTC genious developers have still something to improve!
Disadvantages of Oculus Rift helmet
The major problem of Oculus is known by everybody. It consists in their infinite tardiness and a great amount of failed deadlines. The release date of the market model of Oculus Rift is delayed every six months. Besides, nobody makes the trouble of explaining to the probable users reasons for such delays. They are likely to consist in explicit tardiness of company's management which adjusts to the market challenges more slowly than they appear!
This is what Sir Angry, an irritated user of an American forum, writes about it:
«They are too careful. They are afraid of every move of their rivals. By now they have been finding decent responses to their inventions, but the situation keeps on worsening! They just don't have any more time for new solutions. This lack of time is their eternal problem. For me, Oculus died as a development a long time ago. And this occurs against the background of regular and very interesting upgrades of their competitors…»
Oculus is rumoured to fail to meet the fresh release date which is due in fall 2015. The novelty is alleged to be issued as late as th beginning of 2016. This means that Oculus might face troubles in case of successful launch of HTC Vive. They haven't postponed the date of their release yet, which is still planned in fall 2015. If this gadget is a commercial success, Oculus is unlikely to retain its name of VR world champion! It will have to put up with the vexing status of vice-champion.
Some would call the Oculus' sales system and distribution of test models of the helmet an advantage of the device. Indeed, the very DK2 is not so difficult to buy and use. However, the first consumers' reviews of the quality of the development can't but alarm.
“Little time after the purchase tracking began to bug. I started noticing that sometimes while turning the picture freezes up and the image remain in its initial position”, - writes Sam25.
Screw-ups with service are inevitable, too. Markeus complains about it: «The glasses suddenly broke and I don't know where to repair them. And how? Help!»
Troubles with an embedded camera are also numerous:
«There is a problem with DK2 – the screen is troubling with the tracking camera on, on switching the camera off everything goes alright! Who can help me? Tell me what's hapenning?» - complains Vi.
Hundreds of negative posts about vomissement and giddiness are not deserving of publishing, why should we attentuate the appetite of the readers of Gadgets-reviews?!
Furthermore, calibration doesn't work almost at all on test models, which makes them useful of the developers only (and only partly). We can't speak of pleasure for consumers provided by the first Oculuses… So this advantage of Rift can be called only a partial victory by Facebook.
Our sentence: which virtual reality helmet is better?
Of coarse, it is hard to judge of tha gadgets, the consumer models of which haven't appeared in specialized shops yet. You need to be something of a prophet to judge of the outcome of unborned warriors and just an expert. And in the world there exist just a few good experts in the field of VR. The history of these technologies is done right in front of us.
But let's consider the expert's opinion. Cliff Blezhinsky, the most famous developer of games, believes that it is Valve to be the front runner in this VR race.
Vive is an excellent VR device, as well as Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus which have considerably improved over the past year. However, while my demo on GDC, I can say for sure one thing: Valve was pushed to lead this race of VR armaments, - has he recently said to the journalists.
And we will agree with the expert. HTC maintains permanent links with their fans and more quickly respond to challenges of the time and more succesfully copes with resolving private issues. So, we give our vote to HTC VIVE. Of coarse, Oculus still has chances as we have to remember about financial aid from Zuckerberg and marketing points scored previously. But, at the moment, it is the leader in the race of virtual reality helmets.
Who do you support? Let's discuss it in comments!