Back to Valve Software to Try the Vive
I was invited back to Valve Software, this time to try the Vive dev kit.
I was in Seattle this week for PAX Prime and got a message from a friend at Valve asking if I wanted to try the Vive dev kit. The Vive is HTC's virtual reality headset project in collaboration with Valve. It boasts a range of features, such as fully immersive room-scale VR, allowing you to walk around in a room and have your location reflect upon the content in the virtual space. Here was my experience.
The Vive consists of four components: the headset, two wand-like controllers, and a set of sensors called lighthouses. Each lighthouse is placed adjacent of each other in the corner of the playable space and detect your current location. If you stray outside of the mapped area you'll recieve feedback within the headset to ward you from exiting it so you don't hit a wall, desk, or worse. For this playtest I was in a very large space located within the depths of the Valve offices.
When the headset is placed on your head, you can see both controllers in the virtual space and the room's perimeter. I was able to pick up the controllers quite naturally with the headset on as even the handles show up. The controllers feel like a mixture between a Wii Remote and the Steam Controller, using the same haptic feedback pads for specific actions. As you rotate the controller in your hand in real life, the movement is reflected in the virtual space, making the whole thing feel very natural.
I participated in about 30 minutes of demos, consisting of five mini-games and immersive experiences. These were:
- The first was a cooking game where you were tasked with making soup. You use the controllers to grab different ingrediants to add to the pot.
- The second is an experience where you are on a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean, and eventually, a massive whale emerges. This was one totally surreal.
- The third is from Google, which was a painting sandbox. One of your hands is your brush, the other is your palette.
The fourth demo was set within the Secret Shop in the Dota 2 universe. In this demo, you walk around the shopkeeper's house, exploring the various trinkets and charms he has. Many were interactive and had some effect, such as teleporting you to a different location or changing your size. Hence, you're small compared to everything else. This demo felt very immersive, and I often found myself leaning in closer to look at the different items in the room. Eventually, Roshan pulls the roof off the house, and the demo ends.
The last demo was set in the Portal universe. In this one, you're a robot repair specialist repairing a robot named Atlas. I particularly enjoyed this demo; much like the Dota 2 one, I found myself leaning in and getting closer to everything I could. It was equally funny and impressive based on the tasks you're tasked to perform. At the end of the demo, GLaDOS appears and terminates you for being bad at your job. So much for that cake!
Overall, I'm really excited about the Vive, and I'm excited to see how Valve will continue its hardware journey. I left Valve with some free swag and a bottle of beer. It was great seeing everybody, and it was really lovely that I could finally put a face to some of the names I know. ❤️
I'll leave you with some bonus photographs of the Valve office I took.