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HTC, Valve to Launch Virtual Reality Headset Vive in 2015

HTC is ready to give its smartphone rival Samsung some competition in the virtual reality space, and already has lined up content from Lionsgate, HBO and Google for when its new Vive headset launches later this year.

The company is developing Vive with Valve Software, a major player in the videogame industry through Steam, its online gaming platform, which has 125 million active accounts. Valve’s Steam Machine gaming console also is expected to play a significant role in powering Vive.

Both HTC and Valve see Vive as a new distribution platform for entertainment — which could help Hollywood promote its films and TV shows but also find other ways to monetize those productions.

Given Valve’s involvement, the new Vive headset will enable users to play games, but HTC is promoting it as more of a mass market device that will let users interact with movies, TV shows and other entertainment content.

Both Lionsgate and HBO have been experimenting with VR through experiences designed around “Insurgent” and “Game of Thrones.”

“Virtual reality will totally transform the way we interact with the world, and will become a mainstream experience for the consumer,” said HTC chief Peter Chou. “Attending real-time concerts, learning history, watching an incredible movie, reliving memories through photos or shopping experiences will be transformed.”

It’s a similar promise companies like Oculus, Sony and Samsung are making with their own devices as VR looks to go mainstream this year.

Microsoft introduced HoloLens as its own foray into the VR space, but in a more augmented reality way with computer-generated imagery that interacts with what’s in a user’s space — like digital screens that appear on a wall in a person’s livingroom, for example.

Vive will be a mix of both, according to individuals that have used the headset.

The headset uses 70 sensors to bring virtual reality experiences to life with 360-degree views and use real-world settings like the living room.

“It’s also really light, so you can wear it for a long time without feeling weighed down,” said Jeff Gatis, HTC’s executive director, global marketing.

HTC revealed Vive during a press event on Sunday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where it also showcased its new flagship smartphone, the HTC One M9, which runs on Google’s Android operating system, and the HTC Grip fitness tracker, a collaboration with Under Armour. The presentation can be viewed here.

Details of actual VR experiences were not detailed during the event, nor was the price of the headset revealed.

The Mobile World Congress event is the first phase of the launch of Vive, with Valve also set to promote the VR headset during this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

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