Since Facebook acquired Oculus Rift in 2014, the virtual reality crazy has taken the globe by storm. However, the technology is still nascent to most consumers and businesses. Since the acquisition, many tech brands have created their own VR hardware and software, including HTC.

Are you considering the use of HTC Vive VR for your personal or business use? You have come to the right place.

Below I have gathered a bunch of feedback from early power users, and you will definitely notice clear trends:

  • The HTC Vive does a better job with lag and room scale tracking compared to Oculus.
  • There are limited use cases for marketing and public relations due to early stage adoption curve.
  • In the next year, there will be major gains in video games for consumers.
  • The setup is complicated and still reserved for the most tech savvy.

If you really want to dig into the details, I am making all of the feedback available below. Moreover, if you have additional reviews that you would like to submit, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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Anton Dy Buncio, Chief Operating Officer at VIA Technik LLC

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Valuable features

Room scale tracking with no noticeable lag/delay. Being able to move around the environment reduces motion sickness significantly. I’d say this is the biggest value compared to the Oculus. Once the entire setup is built, it works great. The headset tracking, controller tracking are flawless. I can walk around and interact with my environment with no issues. We use the HTC to create interactive virtual reality environments, and it works beautifully compared to the Oculus.

Improvements to my productivity

Immersive collaboration. Being able to walk around and experience my environment, we are able to collaborate with architects, construction companies, engineers in the entire environment. We don’t need to worry about asking for more ‘views’ to comment on and update. We can only see this being more powerful with multi-player VR environments.

Technical Support

They were very responsive when we had setup questions. Other than that, the only issues we had were driver related that were resolved once drivers in the system were updated

Initial Setup

God, this was painful. Wires, wires, power outlets everywhere. Drivers needed to be updated and took hours. Finding places in the room to set it up was painful. Minimum 3 power outlets, plus 2 more for charging controllers. Initial drivers didn’t work, so we needed to update the firmware and drivers of everything. Took us about 6 hours just to get everything done (troubleshooting, waiting for driver downloads, waiting for windows updates, NVidia updates, firmware updates). Since then, we have managed to move the setup and bring it around and redo the setup in ~15 minutes.

Drew Farnsworth, Operations Manager at Agile Data Sites

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Valuable features

The Vive delivers an immersive experience for programs able to take advantage of its technology. The motion tracking is excellent and offers near perfect immersion in the best of applications. 360 degree video playback offers clients the chance to experience our architecture and systems in a way that no other platform could. The 360 degree desktop is immersive and incredible. I am able to concentrate in that space very well. However, I have only used that feature one time, probably out of habit.

Improvements to my productivity

I have looked at the productivity features of the system and have not yet utilized them. The 360 degree desktop has the potential of incredible gains to my productivity but I only used it once. The ability to give 360 degree tours is fantastic, but I can use any cell-phone type VR headset to get the same results in a portable form factor for a fraction of the price.

Room for improvement

It costs more than it is worth right now, apart from the coolness factor.

Technical support
I am not one to call tech support, instead favoring forums, which have proved helpful.

Initial set up

The setup was quite complex but largely well documented. There were definitely hiccups and an initial confusion of applications and settings.

Chris Orris, Senior Account Manager at Oxygen PR

chris-orris-oxygen-pr Valuable features

Hands down, the Vive is the best VR you can get right now, and the reason is room-scale tracking. To understand it, first understand that most VR headsets only track your head’s rotation, but not your position change. It makes the experience like sitting in a swivel chair – you can’t actually get up and walk around, which makes it a lot less exciting. Two others, PSVR and Oculus Rift, offer positional tracking, but it’s limited to a short distance, basically letting you lean and duck within that same swivel chair. But the HTC Vive tracks your position in an area up to 5m x 5m. That sounds good on paper, but in fact it makes the experience twice as good, easily. And when you add the hand controllers, you can basically move any way you could in real life, in the virtual experience.

I knew it was different the first time I wore one. I was playing a tee ball game at SXSW. I put a ball on the tee, and it fell down and started rolling toward my foot. I naturally reacted by kicking the ball away so I wouldn’t trip on it… before realizing the ball wasn’t real.

Oculus Rift just released some cameras that give room-scale tracking, but the reviews are mixed. I haven’t tried it, but I hear it’s good but a bit buggier than Vive. However, they also released their own hand controllers, which I hear are better than the Vive’s. My guess is in a few months, the two will be even or very close.

Improvements to my productivity

I typically use the Vive for games, so productivity gains are indirect for me. That said, I’ve been taking “VR breaks” during my lunch hours a lot, where I’ll play some action-intense VR game for 30 minutes. It wakes me up a lot, and combats the midday slump that’s famous in our office. It’s hard to stay tired when you’re jumping left and right to dodge lasers and blow up robots.

Room for improvement

There’s not much to improve as a gaming system, but for the most part, business applications seem to be more bespoke for particular industries (medical, engineering, etc.) so there’s not as much for a regular office worker. If there was more content along those lines, the investment would be paying off better.

Also it’s not non-nerd friendly at all. If you don’t have someone who’s comfortable with computers, you simply shouldn’t buy a Vive. More on that in the next sections.

Also it takes an extremely powerful computer to run, but that’s not an easy problem to solve. It’s more likely for the problem to be solved with time and cheaper computer parts than changes to the actual Vive (except for the possibility of “foveated rendering,” but that’s a whole different topic.)

Technical support

I’m good with computers so I haven’t needed to use tech support, but I’ve encountered a number of problems that I know would leave me lost if I weren’t a nerd. Like an issue with the audio inputs switching randomly, and then not coming on. It turns out I needed to update the video drivers – many people don’t know what that means. I’ve also been told to update the firmware on the “lighthouses” (boxes you mount on the walls that help with the positional tracking) and while the instructions were clear, it was still a song and a dance with cords and installation menus that I think would leave a lot of people frustrated.

Initial set up

Hardware-wise, it’s kind of complicated to set up, but not awful. I’d say it’s on par with setting up a surround sound system for your TV. You gotta plug in a bunch of cables in the right place and mount some boxes to the wall, but if you follow the instructions closely there’s not much that can go wrong. The software’s a bit trickier, since you have to download several programs and do a bunch of configurations. It’s not super hard, but there’s a bunch of places where something could go wrong, and you’d wind up with tech support issues.

Use Cases for Marketing and PR

Right now, the Vive isn’t used a whole lot for marketing or PR, because there’s hardly any devices in people’s homes to send content to (~200k Vive sales total). Moreover, it is too bulky and equipment-heavy to really bring anywhere except for one-on-one demos and, perhaps, trade shows (but for now, it’s usually only at trade shows to show off VR or VR content itself, not other products). There’s way more marketing being done via Google Cardboard because nearly everyone has access to it, or can be given access for an investment of a few bucks.

One very notable exception is the Jaguar I-PACE, which used Vives, and blew people away: http://vrscout.com/news/jaguar-ipace-car-launch-htc-vive/

IKEA made a free Vive game where you walk around a room you can customize. It’s kind of fun but limited. As a PR guy I’d call it a somewhat successful PR stunt because it got a lot of mentions in the tech press, but as an actual marketing tactic, there’s just too few people using Vives for it to really drive people to go to IKEA. It also launched right when the Vive was new (April), so some of their press coverage was likely due to a novelty factor that’s no longer present.

It’s too bad because the potential is totally there if not for those issues. The Vive lets you put someone in any setting or situation you want, and manipulate (or let them manipulate) the world as needed, and it’s way more effective than looking at a 2D screen. Changing the colors of the kitchen in the IKEA VR game makes you really understand how different furniture and color schemes change the look of the room in a way that a web app can’t. If there were 20 million Vive’s out there, that demo would bring lots of people to Ikea’s stores, or better yet, cause them to order online.

It’s speculation, but I believe mixed reality will also drive more such content. Mixed reality is where you’re able to show both the real world and the virtual one at the same time, and one use for this is showing a real live person standing in the virtual world that they see in their headset (video example). This is important because it solves the problem of showing VR content to more than one person at a time, and people who don’t have a Vive. They don’t get the same immersion as when they’re actually in the headset, but they can understand what’s going on and appreciate that a real person is manipulating a virtual world. You get to experience it vicariously, which still has value.