My Week With the HTC Vive Pre

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an HTC Vive Pre for the last week and have noticed a few things, good and bad, that I would like to mention.

The Bad

First and foremost is sweat. For whatever reason the Vive Pre is HOT! In the traditional temperature sense of course. The headset causes everyone I have demoed it for to sweat pretty profusely. If left unchecked this can lead to a very unpleasant wet foam padding for the next user. There are a couple of solutions though. The people over at VRCover.com make an HTC Vive Pre Waterproof Cover for “demo and sports”. This is an absolute must in my book when it comes to the Pre. Even if you aren’t going to be showing it off it is still uncomfortable to have a soggy headset on your face. The alternative I have found is to take a piece of paper towel and place it where the section of foam meets your forehead. This absorbs your sweat as it occurs and prevents the issue mentioned above.
Second, though the Room Scale tracking is touted a lot these days as revolutionary, and I agree it is something to be experienced, it does present some problems that many others have written about, space. I first set up the system in my living room after moving my coffee table off to the side and freeing up what I though was an adequate space. I have heard of successful setups as small as 8 ft by 4 ft. My space was 10 ft by 6 ft and I had trouble getting a acceptable space according to the room scale setup tutorial. I ended up having to fudge things a bit by tracing the space occupied by my coffee table as ‘empty space’ which caused problems in game later. I later moved the coffee table giving me a space of 10 ft by 8 ft. Another related trouble I discovered was the overhead space. As many people do, I have a ceiling fan in my living room. This presented a danger during experiences as I was constantly afraid to raise my arms above my head for fear of smashing the controllers into the fan or light. This may not be as large a concern for people with high ceilings or who rely on standing/table lamps for light in their rooms. If possible choose a room with a space that is completely clear from ceiling to floor.
Tracking setup is my final grievance. If you are using permanent mounting hardware then this is less of a concern but for a mobile setup that can be taken to expos, meetups, or exhibits additional equipment is a must. I utilized some speaker stands recommended on the HTC Vive Subreddit for my purposes which worked well.

The Good

Room Scale is great! The ability to simply walk around an environment, limited though it may be, is incredible. One of my favorite examples of this was when I recently showed someone new to VR the Vive. I put them in WEVR’s theBlu’ and her first question was “How do I move?”. Once I told her she could just walk around she was blown away. It did not occur to her that she didn’t need to use a touch pad or joystick to move in this experience.
Controller tracking is spot on. The pinpoint tracking of the controllers really sells you on the presence of your hands in game. You don’t feel disconnected and in cases like Owlchemy Labs’ Job Simulator demo you may even forget the cartoony glove hands aren’t your hands.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of the challenges faced with the Vive Pre it is exciting that VR has advanced to this level. I am waiting with bated breath for the full consumer release of this headset as well as the Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch controllers. It is a fun time to be alive and in the VR scene.