At E3, I saw Oculus' virtual reality experience at its zenith. I played with the the near-retail version of the Oculus Rift, combined with the Oculus Touch controller, as led by the founder of Oculus VR itself. At PAX Prime 2015, I finally had the chance to mess with the one of the many competitors to the Oculus Rift's ascendance: the Vive, developed in collaboration with Valve and HTC.
I've had the chance to see the HTC Vive in action and while its demo has more life to it, the Oculus Rift remains the VR system to be beat. The Vive headset itself is largely the same at the Oculus Rift, but the Vive controllers are distinctly different and the Vive software is still very much in beta.
The pair of Vive controllers work similar to their Oculus Touch counterparts with one major addition. Not only do they have sensors to measure each controller in physical space, buttons to measure physical grip, and a trigger to measure finer pointer-finger actions, the Vive controllers also include two circular touch sensitive pads. Within the Vive software, these pads allow you to change the color of random balloons you can blow and release, but outside of that, you can definitely see their use within menus and other game systems. While Oculus Touch is thinking about mapping human interactions to controls, the Vive shows that Valve is thinking about finding a middle ground between normal human interactions and game controls.
The Vive software demo was patterned after Valve's Portal series, featuring the Aperture Science division and Glados at various points. While it had more humor overall than the same Oculus demos I experienced at E3 2015, there were definitely more rough edges. I have no idea if I was interacting with the Vive demo correctly. At some point, I was manipulating the insides of a robot that looked alot like Portal 2's Atlas, but I have no clue if I was doing the right thing or just flailing around in VR. It looked great - powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti - but the demo overall wasn't as elegant as the Oculus demos I'd tried months earlier.
The truth of the matter is Oculus is the first company within the VR space. While Valve and HTC have semi-solid hardware and software, Oculus has already done the major legwork for VR. That means Oculus has access to games that are further along to completion, while also having demo software that really pushes the VR experience forward. In contrast, the HTC Vive is playing catch up. I think Valve will reach parity, but the company isn't quite there yet.
That's a bunch of words to say that I came away from the HTC Vive demo more impressed with where Oculus currently is. At the very least, tere is competition in the VR space. If you're not excited about the Facebook-owned Oculus dominating, then you can feel confident that Valve is close behind when it comes to full-fledged VR gaming.