I got to try out the HTC Vive yesterday at the HTC Vive Live Tour. I previously tried Oculus Crescent Bay at GDC.
Vive vs Oculus
Both Oculus and Vive are supposed to have similar resolution and same low persistence display. However, I found the Vive display to contain a lot more pixellation and just lower image quality in general. In an interview with Tested, Oculus told the interviewer that they are using some special coating on the lenses which results in much higher perceived resolution. They have kept the details of this top secret, presumably to stop Vive from copying. I am guessing that's what results in Oculus' better display.
Vive did not have integrated headphones and the audio was not 3d positional. This was a huge factor in the Oculus demos. 3d positional audio plays an enormous role in immersion and its lack could definitely be felt on the Vive.
3. Field of View
Did not notice it at all in the Vive. Which means it was high enough to not make me think I was looking through a pair of goggles.
The Vive was much easier to position correctly. You didn't need to find the sweet spot on the lenses like in Oculus. I barely felt the weight of it while wearing it.
5. Head Tracking
Vive was better. I never even felt like I was tracked. Everything felt extremely natural.
This was the absolute worst part of the Vive demo and nearly destroyed the entire experience for me. The Vive was connected to absolute bunch of cables and my legs would very, very frequently get entagled in them. Almost every step I took I was trying to not step over or get caught in the cables which I very, very frequently did. This highly prevented me from fully getting immersed in the experience.
Input (aka Lighthouse controller)
Vive's Lighthouse tracking tech is what sets it apart. No wonder, the Vive controllers just blew me away resulting in a VR experience unlike any other.
1. Initial Handout
The controllers are handed to you inside VR after you have worn the headset. When you reach out to grab them in VR, that is where they are in reality! That part just blew me away.
2. Underwater ship Demo
I was standing on a ship deck underwater. Little fish were around me. I could use my hands (the controller) to move them away from me. This felt great since I was actually manipulating VR. The demo concludes with a giant whale coming close to you so you get a sense of scale.
While cool, it was nowhere near the 'Thief' demo of Oculus which had Smaug from Hobbit stand next to you.
3. Painting in air
I could select from a color palette and draw with my brush in air. The drawing resulted in 3d strokes. It was surreal. I could draw things in air and move around the room looking at it from different angles. The hand tracking was spot on, allowing me to draw like I was actually holding a brush or pencil.
This demo was the highlight. You are in a workshop style room and you can hear GladOS speaking.
I was instructed to open a set of drawers in the room. It felt just insane when I could actually reach out, pull the drawer and it would open. Each drawer container something hilarious. Then I was asked to pull a lever. Pulling it resulted in a robot from Portal walking in. It felt so real, I had to take a few steps back since I didn't want him too close to me. I was told to dismantle the robot and operate on it. Again this felt absolutely awesome and extremely precise when working with the controller. Eventually the entire room dismantles and you get face to face with GladOS. It truly felt like you were inside Portal.
This is also the first demo I felt nauseous in the Vive. Looking at one side of the room resulted in noticeable frame rate drop, contributing again to loss of immersion.
Oculus and Vive are almost similar in most areas, espcially with 3d audio coming to Vive on launch. This is to be expected since Vive is made by Valve, where Oculus has got its best ideas from anyway.
The real standout of Vive is its Lighthouse controller and that does bring a whole new dimension to VR. Considering that Oculus won't come out with a matching controller till 2016, Vive may be the best VR on the market when it comes out.
That said, I hope the demo presenters do better cable organization since that was a huge issue.