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HomeTechHTC Vive Flow wants to be your portable VR escape glasses

HTC Vive Flow wants to be your portable VR escape glasses

Russell Holly / CNET

Six years have passed since HTC made its first VR headsets. But the company’s latest product, the Vive Flow, takes a whole new approach. The virtual reality glasses connected to the phone, which will come later this year for $ 500, can make their own prescription adjustments. That means you don’t need to wear glasses at all, as long as the Flow’s prescription adjustment range suits your eyes. And, for one of us, it did: we were finally able to ditch our glasses.

HTC would prefer that we not call the Vive Flow a virtual reality headset. If asked, the company would tell you that these are smart glasses designed to be carried everywhere and used when you need to escape reality for a moment. But they’re not exactly glasses, either. You can’t see through the huge mirrored domes unless you activate the pass-through cameras like in other virtual reality headsets.

The Vive Flow marks a return to the phone VR, a territory that is I felt abandoned recently, but could be recovered based on what Qualcomm has indicated comes in 5G from a variety of manufacturers. The Flow looks exactly like that kind of phone-powered headset, but it could also be a placeholder for more advanced ideas to come.

The sides fold flat to make the Vive Flow very compact. You wear them in exactly the same way you wear any other glasses, without the need for an elastic band or weird strap. They fold up and fit in a carrying case that you can easily store in a small backpack or tote bag. They need a battery, which is not included – an exposed USB-C port on the side allows you to connect any battery you want to power the glasses.

Unlike standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 or Live Focus 3, these glasses are connected to the phone and require the phone to power applications and experiences. They can be connected via USB-C or content can be streamed wirelessly via a local connection.

But one of its most incredible features is the prescription-fit diopter technology. When you have the Vive Flow glasses on your face, there is a set of dials on the lenses that count from zero to six. These diopter dials rotate to match your prescription, which means you no longer have to order lens inserts separately or try to fit your glasses into a headset as long as your prescription is within this threshold. You can hand this headset to five people with five different prescriptions and a small adjustment would make the screen perfectly clear to all of them in no time. But these glasses only work up to a -6 prescription; more, you are out of luck. The glasses also lack interpupillary distance adjustment (a common feature in other virtual reality headsets), so if your eyes are slightly closer or farther than what is considered average, you may experience eye strain during the long-term use.

The lenses’ 100-degree field of view and 3.2K resolution screen with a 75Hz refresh rate work with HTC’s Viveport user interface, just like its other VR headsets, and will work with approximately 50 apps on the launch. But there are no drivers included with the Vive Flow and it does not support manual tracking. Instead, the flow uses your phone to navigate. Specifically, a certain range of supported Android phones, as there is currently no iOS support. HTC Vive America director Dan O’Brien did not confirm which chipset was in the Flow, but it may not have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip as the Quest 2 and Vive Focus 3. In many ways the headphones seem like another example of the type of Qualcomm phone-powered smart glasses has shown promise for more than a year.

HTC Vive Flow

Russell Holly / CNET

Testing the flow in person: virtual reality connected to the phone reviewed

A Vive app on the phone connects to the headset and turns the phone into a kind of laser pointer, or a three-degree-of-freedom controller, much like previous virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Go and Google Daydream View. Some parts of the phone can be seen while in virtual reality: there is a set of button areas on the screen, for example. You can point your phone and touch the top of the screen to select something. While the 6DoF headset (which allows you to move and lean forward like most other VR headsets do, using its built-in cameras) encourages you to stand and walk within some preset safety limits, the controller permanently floats in front of you. no matter where you are holding the phone on your person.

CNET’s Russell Holly was able to test the hardware in person in New York. A few applications were demonstrated: a mindfulness exercise from Tripp and a fun game called Space Slurpies from Starcade Arcade. The headphones can also stream anything from your phone screen, turning the glasses into a second screen for videos, browsing, email, or apps, just like others. 2D viewing glasses. Flow headphones can also stream to a nearby TV with Miracast.

If you want to see the world around you without removing your headphones, two cameras on the front enable a pass-through mode very similar to that of the Oculus Quest 2, displaying a blurry grayscale image of the world not too different from it. you get with Oculus. Quest 2. You may need this pass-through feature as Vive Flow does not allow you to draw your own play zone boundaries. Flow can create automatic limits of 6 feet and 10 feet from inside the headset, but these may not line up properly with your home space. If you plan to use Vive Flow to join a meeting taking place in the Vive Sync conferencing app, you’d better have plenty of open space to walk around and safely view all angles of the meeting without tripping over things.

HTC Vive Flow

Russell Holly / CNET

Next Steps: A Potential Launch Pad Where Phone-Connected 5G Glasses Are Going

According to O’Brien, Flow’s return to HTC’s consumer-centric glasses is tied to their being connected to the phone as well. Unlike the company’s other virtual reality products, the Flow is a mobile accessory. Right now, the goggles don’t necessarily do all of the things that full virtual reality can do, and they may not be as easy to control. But O’Brien hints that accessories for the flow could arrive next, possibly early next year. Whether these are small controllers or portable bands remains to be seen. Many companies are trying to access small, wearable glasses-sized devices right now in a variety of ways, from basic smart glasses to developer-focused AR headsets. The Vive Flow seems like a different idea, slowly evolving virtual reality in the form of glasses. “We are all trying to resolve different sticking points and we are all testing the market in different ways,” says O’Brien. “As the market matures, ultimately, we will all wear these glasses, and they will have tiny speakers and we will plug them into our USB connections, and the glass shades will just change depending on the environment, whether it is going to be an AR experience. or a VR experience. ”

O’Brien was discussing the further future, but here and now, Vive Flow aims to work with global carriers and possibly be a headset model for testing 5G-powered VR apps and content. The flow seems, in that sense, like a foot in the door for HTC’s Vive brand to enter the mobile business.

It also seems like an obvious move to eventually link flow glasses with fitness trackers. Meditation and biofeedback fit together naturally. Some advanced virtual reality devices like HP Omnicept they are already exploring the possibility of installing heart rate monitors in virtual reality helmets; Oculus Quest Pro could also add more sensors, while the VR fitness app Supernatural already pairs with an Apple Watch. If Flow is really meant to be a general meditative wellness device as well as a wearable immersive viewer, it would make sense to display heart rate changes via a paired watch in the future.

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

Right now, the Vive Flow is alone, with no additional accessories. There are a lot of really cool ideas here, but who are these headphones for? MyndVR, a company that offers experiences and mental exercises for older audiences, will be one of the launch applications. The lower weight and size of the headset could also help people to wear it more casually for longer periods of time. That said, the presentation interface I tested didn’t seem like something a new VR user could figure out on their own without frustration. While the Flow’s ability to work with your phone is great, all of this really looks like it could benefit from a separate controller.

The HTC Vive Flow starts at $ 499 – less expensive than HTC’s Vive Focus 3 standalone earbuds, but you still need to buy a 10,000 mAh battery from HTC separately or provide your own, and carrying case to keep the Vive safe. Flow is sold separately unless you take advantage of the pre-order starting in October. 14. (Also, you need a compatible phone). That price may seem high compared to the Oculus Quest 2, but the Vive Flow is also much more interactive and immersive than something like Facebook’s $ 300. Ray-Ban stories sunglasses (which, however, work like glasses). In the presentation form that we were exposed to, the HTC Vive Flow is an incredibly cool set of ideas that need an interface to tie it all together. By the time the retail model is ready for review, hopefully that has changed.

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