HTC is trying to rekindle interest in the virtual reality area, launching today the Vive Flow VR set, which will be available from November at a starting price of $499 with an extra $79 for a set of batteries. The best part about HTC Vive Flow VR is that it no longer needs a PC or smartphone to work, being completely independent.
HTC has presented what is currently probably the most compact virtual reality glasses: the HTC Vive Flow weighs only 189 grams – for comparison: the Vive Pro 2 PC headset weighs 850 grams, which is why HTC does not explicitly name their new device a VR headset, but rather VR glasses.
In terms of functionality, the Flow is positioned below self-sufficient headsets such as Oculus Quest 2 and Vive Focus 3: There is no complete hand controller tracking, instead, an Android smartphone connected by cable acts as a pointing controller with three axes of movement. Thanks to two built-in cameras, the headset itself has six degrees of freedom (6DOF), so it not only detects head rotation and tilt but also movement in space.
Although a battery is built into the lightweight glasses, it only buffers short pauses between switching – a smartphone with USB-C power delivery or a power bank serves as the primary energy supply. According to HTC, the headset consumes 7.5 watts. The displays of HTC Vive Flow show a resolution of 1600 × 1600 pixels per eye, the frame rate is 75 Hertz, the horizontal field of view (FoV) is 100 degrees. Since no glasses fit under the HTC Flow, diopter values down to -6 can be adjusted with a rotary knob on each display. A fan provides cooling, and speakers and microphones are built-in.
HTC did not want to give us any further technical details upon request – we do not know which display technology and what kind of system on a chip is used. The only thing that is certain is that, like Vive Focus and Oculus Quest, it is an Android system.
Vive Wave is used as the software platform, apps can be downloaded from the Viveport store. However, Vive Focus apps have to be adapted first, as they work with two 6DOF hand controllers by default – which Flow doesn’t have. The only app specifically mentioned is the psychedelic meditation software Tripp, otherwise, it is unclear which apps will be available for the HTC Vive Flow at the start.
According to HTC, the focus is on mindfulness and meditation apps; In addition, it is possible to watch video files streamed from a smartphone in a virtual TV room via Miracast. You can also mirror the smartphone screen on the glasses. A smartphone with at least Android 9 is required, for video transmission, the mobile phone must support HDCP 2.2.
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