Preorders have just opened for HTC's Vive virtual reality headset. Created in partnership with Valve, the Vive is going to start shipping on April 5th at a price of $799 in the US; In addition to the headset, two controllers, and the Vive's laser tracking system, preordering will get you a bonus of three games and apps: tongue-in-cheek physics game Job Simulator, engineering puzzle game Fantastic Contraption, and impressive 3D painting tool Tilt Brush.
The HTC Vive is one of three high-end headsets shipping this year. It will arrive a week after the moderately cheaper Oculus Rift, and likely several months before Sony's PlayStation VR, which remains unpriced — although we're expecting more news at an event in mid-March. Like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive requires a high-end gaming PC to run. Valve has released a tool that tests your computer's specs with the help of cute robots from Portal, which could either set you thinking about what a VR Portal might look like or leave you with wistful memories of the years when Valve actually made games.
On the bright side, the Vive is the culmination of years of Valve VR research, and we've been extremely impressed with it so far. The headset's most distinctive feature is something HTC calls room-scale VR: the ability to walk around a 15 x 15-foot space while being tracked by two laser "lighthouses." Unlike the Oculus Rift, which will ship with an Xbox One gamepad and get custom Touch controllers later in the year, the Vive is also exclusively based around two remote-like motion controllers. A built-in camera can show you the real world on command, and the system can sync with a phone so you'll still receive calls in VR.
Preordering a novel and very expensive piece of hardware, especially when its appeal is dependent on a crop of games and apps that we won't see in full for a month, is a leap of faith. But if you want to take it, the chasm is waiting.