HTC Vive Pre is a complete overhaul of the HTC Vive ahead of its April 2016 release

HTC and Valve unveil their next-generation Vive headset and promise 7,000 new developer kits

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After HTC and Valve teased us with a top-secret HTC Vive announcement at CES, it’s finally been revealed that HTC has been hard at work on a brand-new Vive headset: the Vive Pre.

Featuring an entirely new headset design, with finalised Lighthouse beacons and completely redesigned controllers, the Pre is likely to be the version that comes to market in April. HTC also promises improved immersion via a lighter and more comfortable headset, paired with improved lenses, brighter displays and changes to its image refinements for better image clarity.

The headset also seems to be more flexible than any other currently on the market, offering interchangeable foam inserts and nose gaskets alongside an overhead strap to keep it secure on any face shape. It’s also adjustable enough to wear with a wide array of glasses, a feature I know I’m incredibly grateful for.

The Pre also features an integrated front-facing camera (something we were initially told about by Bossa’s Henrique Olifiers during our Vive hands-on). The camera is there to blend real-world objects with virtual ones to help you navigate through cluttered spaces, find drinks or talk to people while wearing the headset. While there may be other possibilities for augmented-reality play, it seems to be mostly designed as a safety feature.

Most notably, Vive’s baton-like controllers have had a major design overhaul. Whereas the Vive's looked like two sticks with spinning plates permanently stuck to the top, the Vive Pre’s controllers seem like something from science fiction.

Gone is the angular design of yore, replaced with soft edges, textured buttons and grip pads to make long play sessions more comfortable. The underside buttons have been changed to “dual-stage” triggers for smoother interaction with virtual objects and both batons can be charged via micro-USB instead of removeable batteries.

“When we first announced Vive ten months ago, we had an ambitious goal of fundamentally changing the way people communicate and interact with the world – forever,” commented Cher Wang, chairperson and CEO of HTC. “Since then Vive has received a phenomenally positive reception from media, industry commentators, consumers, and the hundreds of partners and brands we’ve been working with to deliver inspiring and dynamic VR content. For too long, the promise of virtual reality has been little more than a promise. Today we stand on the precipice of a new era. Vive is creating a world where the only limit is human imagination.”

HTC hasn’t yet offered a final price or release date more specific than April 2016 for the Vive Pre. However, we do know that both Valve and HTC are committed to shipping 7,000 developer kits out throughout the start of this year.

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