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HTC Vive Flow wants to be your portable VR escape glass

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Russell Holly / CNET

It’s been six years since HTC made its first VR headset. However, the company’s latest product, Vive Flow, takes a whole new approach. Phone-connected VR glasses, which will be available for $ 500 later this year, allow you to make your own prescription adjustments. In other words, if Flow’s prescription adjustment range fits your eyes, you don’t need to wear glasses at all. And for one of us, it did: Finally, we were able to throw away our glasses.

HTC wants to not call ViveFlow a VR headset. When asked, the company will tell you that these are smart glasses that are taken everywhere and designed to be used when you need to escape reality for a short while. But they are not exactly glasses either. You can’t see through a huge mirror dome without activating a pass-through camera like other VR headsets.

The Vive Flow shows a return to phone VR, an area that has recently been felt abandoned, but could recover based on showing that Qualcomm is available in 5G from various manufacturers. There is sex. Flow looks exactly like that type of phone-driven headset, but it can also be a placeholder for more advanced ideas.

Folding the sides makes ViveFlow compact. Wear them in exactly the same way as any other pair of glasses, without the need for rubber bands or weird straps. They fold into a carrying case that fits easily in a small backpack or purse. Requires a battery that is not included. The exposed USB-C port on the side allows you to connect your favorite battery to power your glasses.

Unlike standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus Quest 2 and Vive Focus 3, these glasses are connected by phone and require a phone to power the app or experience. You can tether it over USB-C or stream content wirelessly over your local connection.

But one of its wildest features is diopter technology that adjusts the prescription. When you wear Vive Flow glasses on your face, you will find a set of dials from 0 to 6 on the lens. These diopter dials rotate according to your prescription. This means you don’t have to order individual lens inserts or try to pack your glasses into your headset as long as your prescription is within this threshold. You can give this headset to 5 people with 5 different prescriptions, and with a few adjustments, everyone can quickly clear the display completely. However, these glasses only work up to -6 prescriptions. You are out of luck anymore. Also, because eyeglasses do not have interpupillary distance adjustment (a feature common to other VR headsets), eyestrain may occur after prolonged use if the eyes are slightly closer or further away than what is considered average. There is a possibility.

With a 100 degree field of view of the lens and a 75Hz refresh rate, the 3.2K resolution display works with HTC’s Viveport user interface, just like any other VR headset, and runs with about 50 apps at startup. .. However, Vive Flow does not include a controller and does not support hand tracking. Instead, the flow navigates using a mobile phone. Specifically, iOS is not currently supported, so a specific range of compatible Android phones. Dan O’Brien, the head of the HTC Vive America, hasn’t seen the chipset in the flow, but may not have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip as the Quest 2 and Vive Focus 3. In many respects, headsets look like another example of the type of phone-driven smart glasses that Qualcomm has promised for over a year.

Russell Holly / CNET Try Flow Directly: Rethinking Phone Connection VR

The Vive app on your smartphone connects to your headset and turns your smartphone into a kind of laser pointer, or a controller with three degrees of freedom, similar to previous VR headsets such as Oculus Go and Google Daydream View. You can see part of the phone while using VR. For example, the screen has a series of button zones. You can point to your smartphone and tap the top of the screen to select something. 6DoF headsets (which, like most other VR headsets, can move around and lean forward using an onboard camera) encourage you to stand up and roam within pre-made safety boundaries. But the controller is forever floating in front of you. It doesn’t matter where you have the phone in your person.

CNET’s Russell Holly decided to try the hardware directly in New York. Several apps have been demoed. Tripp’s Mindfulness Exercise and Starcade Arcade’s Space Slurpies is a fun game. The headset, like any other 2D display glasses, can cast anything from your phone screen, turning your goggles into a second display for video, browsing, email, or apps. The Flow headset can also be cast to a nearby TV using Miracast.

If you want to see the world around you without removing your headset, the two front cameras have pass-through mode enabled, just like the Oculus Quest 2, and the blurry grayscale of the world isn’t much different from what you get with Oculus. A scale image is displayed. Quest 2. Vive Flow does not allow you to create your own playzone boundaries, so you may need this passthrough feature. Flow can create automatic boundaries between 6 and 10 feet from within the headset, but these may not align properly with your home space. If you plan to use ViveFlow to attend a meeting held in the ViveSync conferencing app, have enough open space to walk around to safely see every angle of the meeting without tripping over things. is needed.

Russell Holly / CNET Next Steps: Possible Lunch Pads for Where 5G Glasses Connected to the Phone Are Heading

According to O’Brien, Flow’s return to HTC’s consumer glasses is also related to being connected to the phone. Unlike the company’s other VR products, Flow is a mobile accessory. For now, glasses don’t always do everything you can in full VR and may not be easy to control. But O’Brien suggests that Flow’s accessories could be the next product. I still don’t know if they are small controllers or wearable bands. Today, many companies are trying to get small portable glass-sized devices in a variety of ways, from basic smart glasses to AR headsets for developers. Vive Flow looks like another idea and slowly evolves VR into the shape of glasses. “We are all trying to solve different friction points and we are testing the market in different ways,” says O’Brien. “As the market matures, eventually we all wear these glasses, have small little speakers and connect to a USB connection. The shade of glass changes depending on the environment. AR It will be an experience or a VR experience. “

O’Brien was discussing the distant future, but now Vive Flow is working with global carriers to become a model headset for testing 5G-powered VR apps and content. In that sense, Flow looks like a stepping stone for HTC’s Vive brand to enter the mobile business.

Also, finally linking the flow glasses to the fitness tracker seems like a clear move. Meditation and biofeedback fit naturally. Some advanced VR devices, such as HP’s Omnicept, are already considering incorporating a heart rate monitor into their VR headset. Oculus Quest Pro can add more sensors, but the VR fitness app Supernatural is already paired with the Apple Watch. If Flow is really a popular meditative wellness device and aims to be a portable immersive viewer, it makes sense to show heart rate changes through a pair of watches in the future.

“If you have a wrist tracker that tracks the position of your elbows, the position of your wrists [with accelerometer], And it tracks your oxygen, your heart, and all these other things that can tell the product what it’s doing, which is of great value, “says O’Brien. increase.

Currently, Vive Flow is standalone and has no additional accessories. There are a lot of really great ideas here, but who is this headset for? MyndVR is a company that provides experiences and mental exercises for seniors and will be one of the launch apps. Due to the small weight and size of the headset, people can also wear the headset more casually for longer periods of time. That said, the pre-release interface I tried didn’t seem to be something new VR users could understand without frustration. The ability of Flow to work on mobile phones is great, but the whole thing feels like you can benefit from another controller.

HTC Vive Flow starts at $ 499: It’s cheaper than HTC’s Vive Focus 3 standalone headset, but you’ll need to purchase a 10,000 mAh battery from HTC separately or provide it yourself. The carrying case to keep ViveFlow safe is sold separately (and requires a compatible phone) unless you pre-order it from October 14th. Its price seems to be higher than the Oculus Quest 2. It may look like, but ViveFlow is much more interactive and immersive than anything else, like Facebook’s $ 300 Ray-Ban Stories sunglasses (although it acts as glasses). In the pre-release form we published, HTC Vive Flow is a series of very cool ideas that require an interface to put everything together. Hopefully it will change by the time the retail model is ready for review.

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