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A sneak peek inside Valve's secret laboratories

What a time to be a Vive.

It's not often we get a glimpse inside the hallowed halls of Valve - although we did once get to read the Valve Handbook for New Employees - but American publication Make: Magazine recently did.

Make: Magazine was allowed to delve into the VR laboratories and see all the old Vive prototypes, as well as Steam Controller prototypes, some of which included a trackball for goodness sake! A trackball! Like in the '90s!

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There are pictures and explanations of all the Vive prototypes on Make's website, and there's also an accompanying video of the Valve-delve that includes an illuminating interview excerpt in which engineers Alan Yates and Monty Goodson positively encourage tampering and experimenting with your HTC Vive headset.

"The Vive actually offers a lot of hackability to it," says Goodson in the video.

"Most people haven't figured this out yet but you can snap the head-strap off completely, so there's an opportunity for people to mount this in different ways on their face. The foam itself is just Velcroed on, so people are already starting to find new and different facial interfaces that work better for them. Even the nose-gasket itself is clipped in there so if you don't like it you can just take it out or potentially do something different. And on the top here, hidden under this top strap cover, is an auxiliary USB port, so we'll find people that are sticking various different things on the front or interfacing with different sensors adding to the experience.

"We've really worked, as you can see, to make this as much of an experimentation platform as it is a consumer project, because we know in these early stages of VR there's still a lot to figure out, a lot to explore. We want to encourage that."

Alan Yates continues: "Similarly if you pull apart the base stations or controllers, you'll find the programming; we didn't lock down any of the firmware - it's all accessible. You can download from the device [and] reverse engineer it; you can upload your own custom firmware to it. And obviously HTC isn't going to support your warranty if you do that but you're completely free to do that, and we encourage it."

The HTC Vive was released in the spring and costs £689. It also requires a lot of space and a powerful PC, but if you have all that then Vive is the most convincing virtual reality experience currently around. Shipping delays are no more so if you order a Vive from the official site you should receive the headset promptly. See our HTC Vive review for an in-depth analysis.

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