Here’s how to get a free Vive virtual reality headset

HTC Vive
Jeffery Van Camp/Digital Trends
You like free gear? Interested in cutting edge stuff? Know how to program? If you’re shaking your head yes, have we got a deal for you.

Valve and HTC have begun to offer free development kits for their new Vive VR headset to qualified developers, Ars Technica reports. Kits have already gone out to a handful of specially selected developers, like Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator, I am Bread) and Fireproof Games (The Room). And Valve plans on launching a new site in the next week or so where “all interested developers, big or small,” can apply for a free kit.

Approved developers will be sent a Developer Edition of the Vive. According to Valve’s SteamVR page, the Developer Edition includes “a headset, two controllers and two base stations — everything you need to dive in and start creating new interactive VR experiences.” The kits “will be free, at least initially,” Valve spokesman Doug Lombardi told Ars Technica. They will start shipping out later in the spring in order to build up a solid body of games before the planned 2015 consumer launch.

This distribution method is decidedly different than Oculus Rift’s approach, which is to sell the dev kits to anyone interested for $350. Giving the kits to developers by application will make it much harder for the press and general public to get their hands on them before the commercial release, while simultaneously making it easier for independent developers with limited budgets to get them. At least in theory — Lombardi didn’t provide any specifics on how many kits are going out and what the selection process will be.

Although “developers, big or small” are encouraged to apply, we don’t know what the range of chosen developers will look like. Those developers already selected, though, do show a proclivity for unconventional work, so there will likely be strong representation of indies.

Valve and HTC’s Vive headset stands apart from the other VR systems currently in development for being rooted in an actual, physical space. Instead of sitting still and moving around via a mouse/keyboard or gamepad, motion sensors map out the room you are in and map the virtual space onto the real room, sort of analogous to Star Trek’s holodeck. When you get too close to a wall in the real world, the system will gently fade in just enough reality to prevent you from hitting your nose. This fundamentally different approach leads to both new challenges and new opportunities for game design. Exploration is limited to much smaller spaces, but the experience of inhabiting those spaces is much more immersive.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up. Another dimension of reality awaits.

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