HTC to start preorders on $799 Vive VR Feb. 29

February 22 06:34 2016

A year after first showcasing its Vive virtual reality system at Mobile World Congress, HTC, in partnership with Valve, announced the consumer version of the system at this year’s event. It will cost $799 for a limited time. Preorders start February 29 at 10AM ET; the system will become commercially available in April. 

Vive will come with two VR experiences. The first is the tongue-in-cheek Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives by Owlchemy Labs, where robots have taken over all the jobs once manned by humans. The second is something called Fantastic Contraption by Northway Games in collaboration with Radial Games, in which you walk around a grassy island that floats in the sky and you get to build a machine the size of a horse that you then roll out into the world.

But HTC says it is teaming up with developers to go beyond gaming, in areas like entertainment, retail, education, design, healthcare and automotive. A new feature lets you connect an iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth so that you can respond to calls, texts and such while you are in a virtual environment. I can vouch for the fully immersive demos of Vive that I’ve been a part of–they are really cool. But however promising Vive is, HTC won’t have it easy.

Oculus, which will soon come out with a rival system called Oculus Rift, is better known and has the resources of Facebook behind it.  And on lower priced VR, Oculus is teaming up with Samsung on the Gear VR system. Meantime, another would-be rival in the space Sony has the power of the PlayStation game console on its own PlayStation VR system. And then there’s Google which apparently has designs that go well beyond its efforts so far with Google Cardboard. For its part, the Vive system includes two wireless VR controllers, room scale sensors and a head mounted display. It is designed so that you can move around a room. That too presents challenges, however–how many of us have ample space? But in a proper environment it also makes for compelling virtual reality that is a realtity that deserves attention.