This mixed reality experience even beats the Quest Pro, but it comes at a price

Small, light, chic: HTC's latest creation could almost pass as ski goggles that are a little too thick.






Small, light, chic: HTC’s latest creation could almost pass as ski goggles that are a little too thick.

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Inexplicable forces tear a black hole in the side wall of my study. Instead of sucking in matter, the dimensional rift spits out cuddly fantasy monsters that fly around my guitars, nest next to my console collection, and bang out of all guns.

As driving techno beats jazz my pulse, the whole room fills with pea-sized projectiles, so distracting that I don’t notice how quickly the ceiling spreads meaningful darkness above me.

Instead of my lamp, a pitch-black sky threatens to overwhelm me. What a pompous announcement for a final boss!

This boss isn’t after me personally, but rather the little shooting elf named Yuki, who sits on one of the HTC Vive XR Elite headset’s two controllers. But I still feel intimidated.

Wildly waving around, I direct them through the hail of bullets and let them shoot back as best they can. It is said so beautifully. Well, I see some gaps in the projectile carpet, but I doubt I’ll get through it unscathed with Yuki.

When realities merge

In terms of content, Yuki may not be more than a three-dimensional bullet hell shooter and with its two measly levels have the character of a tech demo. Nevertheless, it serves its purpose. This little program shows me what potential lies in the technology of the HTC Vive XR Elite.

Instead of putting me in the world of a video game, it puts the world of video games into reality for me. It’s a step in a new direction in gaming – and yet it’s not the main factor that’s sending my brain into overdrive. It is clear to me: With this technology more than gimmick is possible.

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In Yuki, real world and video game graphics collide to great effect.






In Yuki, real world and video game graphics collide to great effect.

In my mind’s eye, I see virtual furniture that I place in the apartment to coordinate with my existing furniture before I go to the store. Or a virtual cooking class where I can learn how to flambé my own pans without the risk of clumsily setting the kitchen on fire.

Still a bit blurry

Concepts like these belong to a VR branch that is “Mixed Reality“ called – so mix up reality. Application ideas for this have been haunting the VR scene for years, and experiencing them for yourself is truly transformative.

Even if it’s still a long way from perfect on the Vive XR Elite headset, because the reproduction of the environment is a little bloated. It feels like it doesn’t exceed Full HD quality, or is just slightly above it.

Just so you don’t get the wrong impression: All 3D graphics generated by the headset are pin-sharp, which is hardly surprising given the display resolution of 1,920 x 1,920 pixels per eye with a density of 1,200 ppi and a horizontal panorama of around 110 degrees.

What I see on the bright and very densely populated LCD screen is stable, three-dimensional and, thanks to the correct proportions, feels real – the Thanks to the depth sensor.

Open Brush app: three-dimensional drawing in the real world becomes an intuitive experience thanks to the depth sensor.






Open Brush app: three-dimensional drawing in the real world becomes an intuitive experience thanks to the depth sensor.

Only the three-dimensional camera shots of the surroundings appear a bit blurry. What Vive XR Elite conveys as an overall experience has more the charm of a TV broadcast than that of a positively exciting fever dream.

This review sounds harder written out than it should be, as the end result I found to be more compelling than the Pico 4’s multicolored, but sadly grossly two-dimensional pass-through, or the black-and-white environmental view of other headsets.

Don’t go into the experience with false expectations. Many years of development are still needed before mixed reality (MR) can look deceptively real. That doesn’t take away from the fun or the endless options of productive applications.

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A real all-rounder

Also important: According to the press release, the HTC Vive XR Elite is explicitly described as a mixed reality headset, but in my opinion it is more of a mixed reality headset All-rounders with high ambitions.

MR is just one of several possible applications, especially since there is not yet much software that works with it. In addition to Yuki, I was able to try out a paint program called Open Brush, which aroused no less enthusiasm, but also hardly exceeded the value of a tech demo.

Where would you want to export your own creations if not to another headset?

The whole magic of the three-dimensional drawings fizzles out even on screenshots, so that they cannot even begin to convey how much fun it is to let funny thought bubbles or clouds of smoke grow out of a real cat’s head.

You draw them in the air with an unbelievable matter-of-factness and enjoy a biscuit. It’s just stupid that you can’t show the end result to anyone else with the same intensity.

So what is missing at the moment is a meaningfully networked user environment including a larger number of MR apps. Maybe even for professional applications. After all, it’s about a so-called Prosumer device at a handsome price of 1399 euros.

Be that as it may, most potential buyers will perceive the device as an extravagant VR headset that plays standalone games from the Vive store as well as PCVR games.

The latter is fed in either via a high-speed USB cable or wirelessly via a Wi-Fi 6-capable network.

In some aspects, Half Life Alyx (via Steam) could even be controlled without a controller. However, the hand tracking could generally be refined a bit.






In some aspects, Half Life Alyx (via Steam) could even be controlled without a controller. However, the hand tracking could generally be refined a bit.

This worked excellently in test runs with Half Life: Alyx and Beat Saber. It also worked via WiFi 5, but then the transmission tends to occasionally drop out, which caused unpleasant balance disorders during my laps in the roller coaster simulator No Limits 2.

I was able to counteract this by throttling the bit rate for the transmission, albeit at the expense of the image quality.

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