HTC’s Virtual Reality Headset Just Got Even Better

2 minute read

When HTC and Valve debuted their Vive headset last year, the tech media were convinced that it would pave the way for the future of virtual reality (VR). Until that point, the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift was the only real frontrunner in the modern VR space. Now, as the two companies are preparing to release the Vive to consumers in April, HTC and Valve have unveiled the newest version of the hardware.

The second generation developer version of the Vive addresses one of the discomforts associated with virtual reality — the inability to see anything in the real world around you. The new headset comes with a front facing camera, helping wearers blend the physical world with whatever is happening in the virtual world. That should reduce the possibility of bumping into furniture or other people in your surroundings.

“Being able to take a seat, find your drink, and carry on conversation arounds without removing your headset is only the beginning of what’s possible,” HTC said in a statement. The headset is also more compact than the first generation model.

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Palmer Lucky, Founder of Oculus, wearing a set of Oculus goggles at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on June 23, 2015.Gregg Segal for TIME
Oculus game view
Oculus game viewOculus
Alex Kipman holdsa Microsoft HoloLens at the microsoft hq in redmond, Wa on june 25, 2015.
Alex Kipman holds a Microsoft HoloLens at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. on June 25, 2015. Gregg Segal for TIME
Microsoft Hololens game viewMicrosoft Hololens
Ken Birdwell, an engineer from valve demonstrates the Vive virtual reality headset at the valve hq in Seattle, WA on June 25, 2015.
Ken Birdwell, an engineer from Valve, demonstrates the Vive virtual reality headset at the Valve headquarters in Seattle, Wash. on June 25, 2015.Gregg Segal for TIME
Alex Schwartz from Owlchemy Labs, a juggler in real life, juggling tomatoes in their 'Job Simulator' game for the Vive.
Alex Schwartz from Owlchemy Labs, juggling tomatoes in their 'Job Simulator' game for the Vive.Owlchemy Labs
Clay Bavor wears a Google Cardboard headset in the google woodworking shop in googles hq in mountain view, CA on june 24, 2015.
Clay Bavor, Vice President of Product Management at Google, wears a Google Cardboard headset at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on June 24, 2015.Gregg Segal for TIME

The Vive’s raved-about controllers have been revamped as well. The new design incorporates softer edges, textured buttons, grip pads, haptic feedback, and a dual stage trigger to make it easier to interact with objects.

While the Vive has been well-received so far, it faces stiff competition from Oculus, which starts preorders for its Rift VR goggles on Wednesday. Companies like Google and Samsung are also selling VR headsets that can be powered by your phone, meaning they don’t have to be tethered to a computer to work.

Although the final consumer-ready version of the Vive hasn’t been revealed yet, HTC told Engadget in July that the headset will probably require a wired connection to eliminate latency. The Oculus Rift also requires a PC in order to work.

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