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How to explore HTC's take on the metaverse today -- for free

Excited about HTC's VIVE XR Elite release? The Viverse is ready for you now.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
An avatar made using HTC's Viverse web tools

My personal avatar that I created using the Viverse web tools. 

Image: HTC

Maybe you've already decided to pre-order the HTC VIVE XR Elite, or you're still on the fence, but want a taste of what the headset and HTC's VIVE platform in general have to offer. Either way, you're in luck. While we wait for the company's new hardware to begin reaching customers in late February and early March, we can already play around in its own take on the metaverse: the HTC Viverse.

Also: Apple to delay AR glasses and focus on mixed reality headset

The company detailed the Viverse during its VIVE XR Elite launch, showing off a multiverse that was designed to be extremely user-customizable, from its environs through the avatar representing you. It's still very early days for this new reality, but you can already begin to prepare for your VR-powered entry into it right now by visiting the Viverse website. 

We're going to give you a quick guide for setting up your first avatar, entering your first world, and taking a peek into the realities the HTC VIVE XR Elite will open to you when it finally arrives at your door. 

Creating your avatar

HTC's Viverse Avatar Creator

The easiest way to get started making an avatar is HTC's Web Tools, which let you complete the task entirely within your web browser.

Image: HTC

One of the defining characteristics of the Viverse is its openness. To this end, HTC supports a variety of ways to create or import the avatar that will represent you in the Viverse. 

Also: Should you pre-order HTC's VIVE XR Elite headset?

On the more traditional end of things, you can use HTC's included web tools to go through a familiar character creator-type interface (seen at the top of this page) to generate a full-body avatar -- no floating torsos here. 

If the slightly cartoonish look of the avatars this creates is too unrealistic for your tastes, you can also opt to use HTC's VIVE Avatar Creator App, available as a free download from Google Play or the Apple App Store. The more realistic avatars generated by the app are based on a photo you capture of yourself, doing most of the hard work of actually getting the thing to look like you. Once that's done, you can also customize your avatar with clothes, hairdos, and accessories, just like you can with the web tools. 

The VRM upload option for HTC's Viverse

The option to upload a VRM file makes it possible for your avatar to be anything from hyper realistic to a 3D anime character, and more.

Image: HTC

Finally, the method of creation that's potentially the most exciting is HTC's support for uploading a VRM file. This type of file is a cross-platform container for your avatar. It can be transferred in from a variety of other existing VR and AR platforms, like VRChat, various Vtuber streaming tools, creation apps like VR Studio, and even some browser games. The possibilities for your avatar's appearance, size, and behaviors are nearly limitless thanks to the numerous tools out there for creating and editing VRM avatars. 

Also: The 4 best VR headsets: For gaming, the metaverse, and beyond

An avatar created using HTC's Viverse web tools

You can review your look before finalizing it and moving onto the next step of actually entering HTC's Viverse for the first time.

Image: HTC

Once you've chose whichever method you plan to use and settled on your initial appearance (don't worry, you can always edit or replace your avatar later), you can move on to the next step: entering your first world in the Viverse. 

Entering the Viverse

A selection of available Viverse Worlds and collections

Collections of worlds are available that are themed around specific sports, movies and shows, and brands.

Image: HTC

While HTC has promised the process of entering Viverse worlds while actually wearing its headset will be a matter of walking up to VR assets like windows or paintings and essentially stepping through them into a new reality, the process in our pre-release reality is a bit more mundane. 

There are several ways to find a world to explore, but the easiest way to get started is by visiting your avatar page and clicking the "Explore Worlds" button below your avatar. 

Also: Meet the companies that will shape the metaverse

You'll see a list of available worlds created by both professional outlets and private users. Clicking on one will load that world after a short wait, allowing you to walk around and interact with any assets within it using keyboard and mouse controls that should be familiar to any gamer. These same worlds will be explorable in much more natural manners with a VIVE XR Elite or other compatible VIVE headset. 

A screenshot of the "Hotel of the Underworld" world in HTC's Viverse

I never found a way to wake him up, which is probably for the best.

Image: HTC

The quality of these corners of the Viverse can vary pretty greatly, even if they have a big-name brand attached to them. 

Also: What is the metaverse, and who will build it?

One of the best I found during my short time was a world called "Hotel of the Underworld," a tiny Japanese inn populated by a few interesting characters like the giant innkeeper and Kasa-obake (yes, I had to look that up) bouncing around on his lone leg, both of which you can see above. 

A Dragonball Z themed world in HTC's Viverse

Worlds like this one tend to features some...less than officially licensed looking assets in them. 

Image: HTC

On the other side of the spectrum are the worlds that seem to be pretty blank rooms populated with a variety of static branded models, like the one titled "Time Chamber" that had various Dragonball Z characters and locales at various scales. Interesting for a minute or two of exploration, but certainly not pushing the boundaries of what the Viverse is capable of. 

Creating your own world

One of the default worlds available for creators in HTC's Viverse

There's a ton of space, and a whole other floor to populate with furniture, interactive items, and even portals to other worlds.

Image: HTC

Thankfully, if you're unhappy with the available options, you can just make a world of your own. Everyone that signs up for the Viverse gets a free "starter world." Currently, you can choose from three basic templates, which you can then fill with the objects HTC provides to all users, as well as with imported assets from other sources. 

Also: CES 2023 was huge for AR and VR. Here's everything important that was announced

Of course the more time you're willing to put into it, the more complex your world can become. It's one of the few instances where saying "the only limit is your imagination" is pretty much accurate. 

Keep your eyes on ZDNET for additional coverage of HTC's new flagship headset as we get closer to release.  

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