Virtually

The HTC Vive opened pre-orders on Monday. It was selling for $799, minus tax and shipping. With tax and shipping it came out to $878 and change. I know this, because I had my order in within the first five minutes.

Yes, that’s a hell of a lot of money for a computer accessory. I’m somewhat lucky, really, that I already had the computer capable of running it. Since it needs to be comparatively rather powerful. Several of the current crop of VR devices are expensive to that tune. The Oculus Rift will be $600, although it lacks several of the features of the Vive (they will come later, ordered separately). Microsoft just announced their Hololens VR dev kit will be available soon for a $3000 pre-order. Samsung Gear VR, provided you have a compatible multi-hundred dollar phone/small tablet, is just $100 but won’t have the guts for more hardcore 3d displays. Pricey stuff. Pricey, early adopter stuff. Google has the cheaper Google Cardboard, which works with most modern Android phones, for some basic VR functionality.

The thing is tho, although I’m up to date on technology, I’ve never been an early adopter. So I hear the question, why this one? Why now? Is this just some fancy toy for gaming, a white elephant that will see scant use at ridiculous cost?

And my reply is, look at what companies I just listed are doing with it. Facebook paid $2bil to buy out Oculus Rift.¬†Google has spent billions researching this tech on their own. Microsoft has a working prototype of their system on the space station. And the HTC Vive is backed by Valve and Steam, presently one of the gaming world’s biggest power players. Giants of the tech world are going all in on this function before there’s a massive market demand. This isn’t a case of “Oh look, they’re selling pretty well, we don’t want to get left behind” like some of them did with the mobile device trend. There’s a sort of universal recognition of what this technology can and will represent. Being in on it early is, yes, cool. But it also means I’ll get a leg up on what starts to happen in that space… as will Zoe, who will grow up with it. I view it as an investment for her, too.

All of that said, what will we be doing most? Gaming, for me. I suspect the rest of the family will spend a lot of time playing TiltBrush, and who the hell could blame them. In particular I look forward to seeing Zoe getting her art on with that: her drawing skills are pretty great for her age, let’s see what she can do in here! There’s also been some initial push towards finding ways to use VR for work. A couple of friends are currently developing a sort of VR server monitoring system and workspace right now, and there’s already a VR desktop application for certain work to get done.

This is an important step in technology and user interfaces for computers. In time it will be an important part of our education, our daily work, our interaction with others. This is the stuff of science fiction, and it’s happening right now. I don’t want to be missing out on something this big.