5 amazing experiences that make the HTC Vive virtual reality headset worth $799

It is worth it for the experience of going to a place you never expected.

htc vive pre 4

HTC's redesigned Vive Pre.

Credit: HTC

Those knee-deep in tech understand how infrequently something truly innovative comes along, so you sit up and take notice when there is a brand new experience.

Just a few examples: The first time you ever used an iPhone or an Android phone, the first time you played an online deathmatch in Doom or Quake, the amazing ability to turn on the lights and open the garage doors with a smarthome app.

Today is another momentous occasion with the debut of the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. This will create an industry. It’s absolutely amazing, transports you to other realms, and I believe is worth every penny after spending the last week testing the final version. I left this world and visited another, in more ways than one. I’m still testing the Vive, but here are my favorite experiences so far.

1. Getting surprised by a whale

There are a few experiences you will only have in a VR world. The best app on Vive is called TheBlu, even if it is more of a demo in three segments. You are placed underwater on a ship and can look around a 360-degree underworld. I was expecting a whale at some point, but looked over my shoulder and saw the leviathan floating toward me. It paused and looked me in the eye. Fantastic! (I won't tell you I jumped a little.)

2. Painting an alien in 3D space

Google Tilt Brush is amazingly transportative; it’s a true wonder of software development. I kept going back to it. You hold a brush in one trackpad and a palette in the other. I painted an alien in 3D space, then changed the environment to show a snowman in winter and painted a face. I showed the app to anyone who would listen. It proves VR can teach and inspire. More than anything, you feel like you are in a different dimension.

3. Performing open-heart surgery

Surgeon Simulator: Meet the Medic is a bit tongue-in-cheek and rather cartoonish, but makes for a great story at parties. Yes, I did open-heart surgery. (I won’t mention that the “heart” was sitting in a refrigerator and my “patient” looked like the bad guy from a Team Fortress game. I could see a developer creating a more realistic version for actual education.

4. Getting spooked by thunder and rain

The Gallery -- Episode 1: Call of the Starseed was my favorite game on Vive, mostly because of one particular scene. (Spoiler warning if you want to experience it yourself.) When you finally figure out how to get the iron handle for a gate and walk onto a beach, the weather changes -- there are storm clouds and rain. Because you are immersed in the world, it’s a bit shocking. You want to find a raincoat.

5. Visiting an empty conference room

One of the strangest experiences? Visiting an empty conference room in the Lecture VR app. No one else is there, but there’s a hint that you can hold a meeting in a virtual space. This could work well for remote workers because, if someone talks, everyone can look in that direction--something that is not possible with a normal teleconferencing app (or Skype).

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