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Valve opens applications for free Vive VR development kits

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As promised last month, Valve is letting developers apply for an early edition of its Vive virtual reality system. Ars Technica noted this morning that the SteamVR site now includes an application form for a free Vive development kit. Unlike the Oculus Rift DK2, which sells publicly for $350, Vive kits will be free to selected developers. According to a Valve statement, they'll start shipping "later this spring," going out in batches through the summer. The company warns, however, that "supplies may be limited."

The Vive, created in partnership with HTC, involves a lot more hardware than its competition at Sony, Samsung, and Oculus. In addition to the headset, developers will receive two base stations, which scan a 15-by-15-foot patch of room with tracking lasers. They'll also get two custom motion controllers, one for each hand. Altogether, the current Vive might be the best consumer VR system we've tried yet; its biggest drawback is the long, unwieldy wires that connect the headset to a computer.

Anyone who's not a developer is out of luck for now, since Valve's application is designed to weed out casual users. In addition to a name and contact information, it requires a company name, a team size, a description of the project you'll be building on the Vive, and a projected launch date. In the statement, Valve reiterated its promise that a finished, commercial version will come out later this year. When it does, it'll likely be one of the more expensive options  — HTC has described it as the "high end" of the VR spectrum.