HTC Vive VR headset will be $799, ships in early April

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The photo above is showing the finalized consumer version of the Vive on display at MWC 2016. Scroll down below for a few more shots.

HTC’s Vive VR headset, considered by many to be the only serious competitor to theOculus Rift, now has a price and release date. If you were put off by the “high” price of the Oculus Rift, HTC won’t provide any solace.

The Taiwanese technology company revealed at Mobile World Congress that its Vive VR headset, built in collaboration with Valve, will retail for $799 – a full $200 more than the Facebook-owned competition is commanding. For that price, buyers will receive the headset itself, two wireless controllers with haptic feedback (one for each hand) and a pair of “Lighthouse” laser base stations for tracking purposes.

It’s worth mentioning that the Oculus Rift doesn’t include any motion-based controllers, instead shipping with a standard Xbox One controller (and two games: Eve: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale). Motion controllers for the Rift are slated to arrive later this year although pricing remains a mystery at this hour.

As UploadVR notes, the consumer version of the Vive is virtually (no pun intended) identical to what was shown at CES back in January. The only notable difference to the actual hardware is a more ergonomic head strap.

There’s also a new feature called Vive Phone Services that lets you place and receive calls and text messages without removing the headset and a front-facing camera to connect users to the “real world.” Other notables include an internal microphone and Bluetooth connectivity (presumably to use the aforementioned smartphone features).

Like the Rift, the Vive VR comes with a pair of games: Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives from Owlchemy Labs and Northway Games’ Contraption.

HTC recommends an Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent processor or better, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater, at least 4GB of RAM, an HDMI 1.4 / DisplayPort 1.2 video output or newer, at least one USB 2.0 port and Windows SP1 or newer to get the best experience out of the Vive VR.

HTC will begin accepting pre-orders on February 29 with plans to ship in early April.

Nikon joins premium compact camera market with new DL series

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Cameras built into mobile phones first encroached on the territory of standalone digital cameras in the early 2000s but it would be many years before they were considered a threat. These days, it’s next to impossible to find a smartphone without a camera.

While one could argue that convenience alone trumps all other aspects, smartphone cameras can’t yet compare to the quality afforded by a respectable standalone digital camera – especially a DSLR or mirrorless camera. But what if you aren’t that into photography, would rather not fool with swapping lenses or simply want a great camera without all the bulk?

Nikon’s latest line of point-and-shoot digital cameras may be just what you’re after.

The new DL series is comprised of three compact fixed-lens cameras that cover the most common focal ranges. The DL18-50,DL24-85 and DL24-500 feature wide, mid-range and super telephoto zoom ranges of 18-50mm, 24-85mm and 24-500mm, respectively, and all utilize Nikon’s 20.8-megapixel 1-inch “CX” BSI CMOS sensor (the same one found in the Nikon 1 series) mated to an Expeed 6A image processor.

The DL18-50 and the DL24-85 both feature a variable f/1.8-2.8 aperture and four stops of stabilization while the DL24-500 offers a variable f/2.8-5.6 aperture and five stops of stabilization. As you’d expect, the DL18-50 and DL24-85 are pocketable; the DL24-500, not so much.

Each model offers RAW image capture and 20fps continuous shooting as well as 4K video recording at up to 30fps and slow-motion capture at 120fps (1080p) and 240fps (720p). All three cameras also utilize Nikon’s BridgeSnap system which leans on both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to speed up wireless transfers. Hot shoes can be found on all three models.

Nikon says the DL18-50 will ship this summer priced at $849.95 while the DL24-85 will set you back $649.95. The superzoom DL24-500, meanwhile, will command $999.95 when it arrives this summer. Personally, I’d opt for something in the mirrorless category that affords the added flexibility of an interchangeable lens camera but as cameras like the Sony RX100 III have demonstrated, the market for fixed-lens point-and-shoots still very much exists.

DJI now offers insurance policies for your drone

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Drone maker DJI revealed a couple of years back that it was developing a parachute designed to minimize damage to a drone in freefall. The DropSafe Speed Reduction System eventually made it to market although its $800+ price point and compatibility with a limited number of drones means it isn’t an option for everyone.

Now there’s an option for everyone else to protect their investment. It’s called the DJI Care Protection Plan and as the name suggests, it’s an insurance policy for your drone.

Designed to provide pilots of all skill level peace of mind, the plans are offered in six- and 12-month increments. Pricing starts at $99 for a six-month plan that covers a Phantom 3 Standard and tops out at $699 for a year of coverage on an Inspire 1 V2.0 drone with coverage amount caps of $499 to $3,099, respectively.

DJI care offers coverage for Phantom 3 Standard, Phantom 3 4K, Phantom 3 Advanced, Phantom 3 Professional and Inspire 1, version 2.0 with X3 gimbal camera. Plans can be purchased at the same time the drone is bought or added separately and can be transferred to a new owner should you sell your drone.

DJI says plans cover damage to the aircraft, gimbal or camera under normal use and pilot error such as drops and crashes.

If you’re accident-prone or otherwise clumsy, it may not be a bad idea to look into DJI’s offering.

Sony sends out invites to PlayStation VR event at GDC 2016

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With so much press surrounding the Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive VR, it’s easy to forget that a third major player is looming on the horizon. I’m of course talking about Sony and its PlayStation VR (formerly Project Morpheus).

According to IGN, we will be hearing more about Sony’s virtual reality plans in the near future as the company has sent out media invitations for an event that’ll take place March 15 in San Francisco (during the annual Game Developers Conference). The press event will begin with a PlayStation VR presentation followed by hands-on demonstrations, the invite reads.

With Oculus VR already accepting pre-orders and HTC to do so next week priced at$599 and $799, respectively, all eyes will be on Sony to see how much they’ll ask for the PlayStation VR and when it’ll arrive (assuming of course that Sony is prepared to release those details). Leaks have suggested it could be priced under $500.

At CES last month, Sony executive Kaz Hirai told the BBC that developers are collectively working on 100 or more titles for the virtual reality headset. Given the platform, one could safely assume that most of those titles are games. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are also expected to have their fair share of gaming titles in addition to other applications.

Sony’s PlayStation VR event begins at 2pm PST on March 15 and although it hasn’t been confirmed, I suspect it’ll be livestreamed over the Internet.