After years of focusing on business-oriented virtual reality, HTC launched a $ 499 entertainment-focused headset called Vive Flow in November, launching pre-orders worldwide today. To do.
The new Vive Flow looks radically different from most HTC Vive devices. It’s standalone hardware modeled after sunglasses, and at first glance, it could pass not only VR headsets, but also augmented reality headsets. But behind these slightly buggy mirror shades is a lightweight version of the previous Vive headset, with the exception of some key features.
Vive Flow features a focus dial inside the headset.
ViveFlow, which was leaked in large numbers before HTC revealed today, is a compromise between functionality and friendliness. The device features a 1.6K / Eye display with a 100 degree field of view at a refresh rate of 75Hz (HTC did not provide accurate resolution). This is a bit more limited than the 120 ° and 90Hz rates found on the more expensive Vive Focus 3, and the refresh rates are about the same, but with a narrower field of view than the original quest. It’s also slightly comparable to the refresh rate of Oculus Quests before the recent upgrade, and a bit more cramped than the 110 degree field of view.
Two front cameras will handle flip-down motion tracking, and HTC will also support hand tracking, but this feature wasn’t available in pre-launch demos and didn’t provide an accurate timeline for rollouts. bottom. It uses the latest generation Qualcomm XR1 chipset (as opposed to the Quest 2s XR2) and has a fair amount of 64GB of storage space, but unlike the Focus 3, it doesn’t have a slot for expansion cards.
Lightweight hardware is a big selling point for HTC. Dan O Brien, head of VR at HTC, said he wanted to get something lighter, easier to wear and more portable. The Flow weighs 189 grams, but the Oculus Quest 2 weighs about 500 grams and has a hinged design that can be folded to fit in a $ 49 carrying case.
Unlike previous Vive headsets, the Vive Flow doesn’t come with a controller. Instead, connect the headset wirelessly to your Android smartphone and use the phone as a remote / touchpad combination. Similar to the mobile Google Daydream or Samsung Gear VR remotes, it’s basically a virtual laser pointer with buttons for selecting items to bring up the home screen.
The leaked photo shows that the flow is connected to a black box. Some speculate that this could be an external computing device. In fact, a $ 79 battery pack will allow you to use your headset for 4-5 hours. Flow is technically equipped with its own battery, but according to HTC, it only lasts for a few minutes because it’s designed to allow you to switch the headset without turning it off. Therefore, you’ll need either an HTC battery sold separately from the headset, or (according to HTC) a 10,000mAh power bank and USB-C cable.
In addition to controlling your device, you can use your phone connection to mirror Android apps, recall a virtual copy of your phone’s home screen, or launch apps such as streaming video services in a floating window. The headset doesn’t pair with the iPhone and HTC doesn’t rule out future support, but it does show that there are serious barriers to getting iOS to work well with Flow.
HTC wants people to use ViveFlow for a visually immersive but almost static experience. So you can watch 360-degree videos and sit in a virtual environment, but you can’t use apps that require full-fledged virtual hands. (This excludes the most well-known VR games.) Camera tracking offers a more natural experience than a headset that can only detect head angle, but with an app catalog and a slightly looser eyeglass style. The design means you probably won’t walk around.
According to HTC, Flow will launch with 100 apps and will support 150 by the end of the year. In addition to applications such as streaming video, the release announcement promotes the Tripp meditation app and MyndVR, a VR treatment service for the elderly. You can also use VR social spaces such as Vive Sync to watch streaming videos that have proven to be popular with AR glasses. Flow supports a limited subset of apps on the HTC Viveport store, allowing users to subscribe to a discounted, flow-focused, $ 5.99 monthly version of the Viveports app subscription service.
Image: HTC Image: HTC Image: HTC
Vive Flow basically seems to be marketed as a VR headset for those who find the current VR headset too complex or intimidating. OBrien describes the device as easy to put in a bag while traveling, without worrying about extra parts such as a controller. He says he wanted to make something very easy and flexible. Rather than directly competing with game-oriented headsets, HTC is trying to open up its own new category.
HTC focuses on older users (a huge Boomer population, as MyndVR representatives say). This is part of this strategy. Instead of the straps found on most headsets, you want a glasses-like design. According to OBrien, some users really want this to be non-intimidating and easy to put on and take off. The results have much in common with the now obsolete Oculus Go, but they look sophisticated and have been upgraded to look like a camera flip-down tracking.
My short experience with Vive Flow was a mixed bag. In fact, the flow is very light, probably because HTC offloaded the battery. However, without a strap system to keep the headset in place, the screen slipped off the face and the upper half of the VR experience was blurred. HTC will offer replaceable face gaskets for a variety of fits, one of which worked better than the original gasket. However, I still had to be careful when turning my head, and the feeling of carefully balancing the headset was not completely relaxed.
Flow was more exponentially tolerable than the previous glasses-style VR headsets I tried. It feels much more volatile than the Focus 3, Quest, or virtually any other major headset, and there is no alternative strap option for those who want a safer fit. It has a diopter adjustment dial so you can change the focus individually for each eye, but when you’re actually looking at an image like Quest 2, where you need to remove the headset and twist the wheel by one notch. Inconveniently, you can’t change the focus. Then put it again.
Smartphone-based controllers are the biggest deviation from standard VR design, the Vive Flows, which are theoretically rational, but in reality awkward. I used an HTC-provided Android device that works fine as a VR laser pointer. However, due to the long-term trend of ever-growing phones, I could barely fit my hand around the HTC phone to tap a virtual button on the screen. It’s also a strange choice for headsets for older users who are dramatically less likely to own a smartphone.
There is a soft, replaceable gasket between the face and the lens.
Hand tracking may partially solve the interaction problem. However, the gesture interface remains frustratingly hit or missed, and usually requires you to lift your finger to perform small movements. This also seemed like a bad option when hand movements were restricted and I couldn’t try the HTC version in the demo. According to OBrien, HTC is still considering other control system options and will tweak the design based on how people use it after releasing the headset.
More generally, unclear HTC with a focus on portability is the key to overcoming VR suspicions. For years, companies have been marketing VR that can be thrown in a bag. I’ve heard that even skeptics praise bulky headsets for comfort, except for those who work with headsets, but one person cites it as a selling point. I don’t have one. HTC also states that wearing this eyeglass-like design in a public place like an airplane would make people feel less uncomfortable. As someone who has actually worn a VR headset on an airplane, I’m not sure if it’s enough to eliminate that fundamental weirdness.
There is really no clear audience about the flow of the US market. It’s far more expensive and less feature-rich than Facebook-funded Oculus Quest 2, but it doesn’t have any special features that appeal to businesses or other organizations. (For example, at film festivals and schools, you can use a plain VR headset for 360-degree video, but the flow isn’t.) HTC is a social app like Sync that can have a relatively broad appeal. Designed. But other than meditation and video options, my Flow demo didn’t provide a great sense of its day-to-day value. Most of the small games Id might play occasionally, rather than the tools that Id spent $ 499 to access.
However, HTC is building a strong foundation for VR business hardware and so far seems happy to release Flow as an experiment. At least, even if it looks like a bug, I can’t find another major headset like that.
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