The second generation SteamVR development kit, the HTC Vive Pre, was unveiled at CES in January and included numerous enhancements. Valve have now announced that the new Pre systems are on their way to developers.

In the run up to CES, HTC made a ‘bold’ statement about a new revision of their SteamVR based virtual reality system, the HTC Vive. The company had to issue a climbdown on the original anticipated release date for the Vive, originally to be during the 2015 holidays. The Vive instead would launch in April 2016, with pre-orders going live on February 29th.

The reason for the delay? A statement from HTC’s CEO Cher Wang cited a “very, very big breakthrough” as the culprit. Which, of course, ensured that the hype train for SteamVR was fully fuelled all the way until CES hit.

See Also: Hands-on: HTC Vive Pre Brings Notable Improvements to Visuals, Tracking, and Ergonomics
See Also: Hands-on: HTC Vive Pre Brings Notable Improvements to Visuals, Tracking, and Ergonomics

What was unveiled was the HTC Vive Pre, a second generation developer system with refined, sleeker VR headset, redesigned SteamVR controllers and a set of slimmed down Lighthouse laser base stations. That “very, very, big breakthrough” was the integrated, wide-angle, front-facing camera – which allows visions of the real world to be overlaid onto the virtual environment when inside the Vive headset. Additionally, the Pre incorporated a common image enhancement technique which deals with OLED panel shortcomings, Mura correction. Important additions both, with the former adding much needed environment awareness and safety enhancements the latter improving image quality noticeably. The jury’s still out on just how much of a breakthrough these additions will prove to be however.

Now, Valve has announced that the first batch of Vive Pre’s are on their way to developers already holding mark I ‘Developer Edition’ Vive systems. This is an important milestone given the short lead time until consumer edition units are due to ship in April. Developers will want to be sure that any incorporation of the front-facing camera is tested thoroughly. Developers will very likely have known about the additional feature well ahead of the CES reveal however, so hopefully this won’t be a last-minute addition for them.

It’s thought that the HTC Vive Pre represents a close approximation of the eventual shipping unit, at least in terms of feature-set. However, we’ve still yet to see the integrated headphones which we were told might be on the way for the consumer unit.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • John Davis

    I don’t understand how they can have a dev kit just barely shipping now, while still being on target for a consumer version by April.

    • realtrisk

      Kinda makes you wonder, dud’nit?

    • RogWilco

      Yep. And considering their lack of transparency last time, I don’t see any reason to believe they their April consumer release. At this point they may as well have not said anything at all.

      The only possibility I can think of is if the dev kit actually is the consumer version sans retail packaging, in which case they only needed until April to finalize the packaging. That’s plausible, but I have a hard time trusting anything they say that involves dates at this point.

      • Joshua Neff

        I understand your frustration, I too hate it when release dates are not met. But something to keep in mind is software to support the product.

        Currently, if you don’t have the version being advised of in this article then you would not be able to correctly test using the new tech in the headset. I really want to tap into the front camera to pull off some cool augmented reality. With the dev kit I’m not able to do that. But when I get my pre-release version I can start working on AR. It should give me enough time to have a demo good to by by April so consumers can enjoy the release version they get.

        The community is really cool and the team seems to really care about the product. Don’t be discouraged by a release date, it will be worth it when it goes live.

    • Joshua Neff

      This is the pre, not the dev kit. There was already a developer edition which I’ve been using for some time now. This is just a more updated version and is closer to what you will see during release. The dev kit is pretty solid, other than some driver fiddling.

      I’m waiting for my pre to arrive. But if its better then the dev kit, you can bet your money this is the tech you want. I’ve got a few VR headsets and this is by far my fav. Its really hard to express via thread how in love with this tech I am, but seriously this is where it’s at.

      • care package

        I believe it. Every video I’ve seen so far of those who’ve tried both have always said they like the Vive better. The whole stand up aspect improves immersion considerably it sounds like. I like the idea of their camera too. I would imagine once you get used to it, anything else feels ‘blind’.

  • In a German store for consumer electronic and household appliances, they are testing HTC vive
    http://www.webshopgurus.com/2016/02/09/media-saturn-is-testing-virtual-reality-for-planning-a-kitchen/