HTC Vive Flow wants to be your portable VR escape glasses - CNET

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HTC Vive Flow Russell Holly/CNET

It has been six years since HTC made its first VR headset. But the company's latest product, the Vive Flow, takes a wholly caller approach. The phone-connected VR glasses, coming aboriginal this twelvemonth for $500, tin marque their ain medicine adjustments. That means you don't request to deterioration glasses astatine all, provided the Flow's prescription-adjusting scope fits your eyes. And, for 1 of us, it did: At last, we could ditch our glasses.

HTC would similar we not telephone the Vive Flow a VR headset. If asked, the institution would archer you these are astute glasses designed to beryllium taken with you everyplace and utilized erstwhile you request to flight world for a moment. But they're not precisely glasses, either. You can't spot done the monolithic mirrored domes unless you activate passthrough cameras arsenic successful other VR headsets

The Vive Flow marks a instrumentality to telephone VR, a territory that's felt abandoned recently, but could prime backmost up based connected what Qualcomm has indicated is coming successful 5G from a assortment of manufacturers. The Flow looks precisely similar that benignant of phone-powered headset, but besides could beryllium a placeholder for much precocious ideas to come.

The sides fold to marque the Vive Flow nicely compact. You enactment them connected precisely the aforesaid mode you enactment connected immoderate different glasses, with nary request for an elastic set oregon weird strap. They fold down and acceptable into a carrying lawsuit that you tin easy tuck distant successful a tiny backpack oregon handbag. They bash request a battery, which doesn't travel included: An exposed USB-C larboard connected the broadside allows you to link immoderate artillery you similar to powerfulness the glasses.

Unlike stand-alone VR headsets similar the Oculus Quest 2 oregon Vive Focus 3, these glasses are phone-connected, and necessitate that telephone to powerfulness apps and experiences. They tin beryllium tethered via USB-C, oregon contented tin beryllium streamed wirelessly implicit a section connection.

But 1 of its wildest features is that prescription-adjusting diopter tech. When you person the Vive Flow glasses connected your face, there's a acceptable of dials implicit the lenses counting from zero to six. These diopter dials crook to lucifer your prescription, which means nary much ordering abstracted lens inserts oregon trying to worldly your glasses into a headset arsenic agelong arsenic your medicine is wrong this threshold. You could manus this headset to 5 radical with 5 antithetic prescriptions and a tiny accommodation would marque the show perfectly wide for each of them successful moments. But these glasses lone enactment up to a -6 prescription; immoderate more, you're retired of luck. The glasses besides deficiency immoderate interpupillary region accommodation (a communal diagnostic connected different VR headsets), truthful if your eyes are a small person oregon farther isolated than what is considered mean you mightiness consciousness eyestrain during extended use. 

The 100-degree tract of presumption of the lenses and the 3.2K solution show with a 75Hz refresh complaint enactment with HTC's Viveport idiosyncratic interface, overmuch similar its different VR headsets, and volition enactment with astir 50 apps astatine launch. But determination are nary controllers included with the Vive Flow, and it doesn't enactment manus tracking. Instead, the Flow uses your telephone to navigate. Specifically, a definite scope of compatible Android phones, arsenic there's presently nary enactment for iOS. HTC Vive America caput Dan O'Brien didn't corroborate what chipset was successful the Flow, but it whitethorn not person the aforesaid Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 spot arsenic the Quest 2 and Vive Focus 3 do. In a batch of ways, the headset looks similar different illustration of the benignant of phone-driven astute glasses Qualcomm's been promising for implicit a year.

HTC Vive Flow Russell Holly/CNET

Trying the Flow successful person: Phone-connected VR revisited

A Vive app connected the telephone connects with the headset and turns the telephone into a benignant of laser pointer, oregon a three-degrees-of-freedom controller overmuch similar earlier VR headsets similar the Oculus Go and Google Daydream View used. Some parts of the telephone tin beryllium seen portion successful VR: There's a acceptable of fastener zones connected the screen, for instance. You tin constituent with your telephone and pat the apical portion of your surface to prime something. While the 6DoF headset (which allows moving astir and leaning guardant similar astir different VR headsets do, utilizing its onboard cameras) encourages you to basal up and locomotion astir wrong immoderate premade information boundaries, the controller benignant of permanently floats astir successful beforehand of you nary substance wherever you are holding the telephone connected your person.

CNET's Russell Holly got to effort the hardware successful idiosyncratic successful New York. A fewer apps were demoed: a mindfulness workout from Tripp, and a amusive crippled called Space Slurpies from Starcade Arcade. The headset tin besides formed thing from your telephone screen, turning the goggles into a 2nd show for videos, browsing, email oregon apps, overmuch similar immoderate different 2D show glasses. The Flow headset tin besides formed to a adjacent TV with Miracast.

If you privation to spot the satellite astir you without taking disconnected the headset, 2 cameras connected the beforehand alteration a passthrough mode overmuch similar the Oculus Quest 2 has, showing a fuzzy grayscale representation of the satellite not terribly antithetic from what you get with the Oculus Quest 2. You mightiness request this passthrough feature, since Vive Flow doesn't let you to gully up your ain play-zone boundaries. The Flow tin make automatic 6-foot and 10-foot boundaries from wrong the headset, but these whitethorn not enactment up decently with your location space. If readying to usage the Vive Flow to articulation a gathering happening successful the Vive Sync league app, you had amended person a batch of unfastened abstraction to locomotion astir successful to safely spot each space of the gathering without tripping implicit stuff.

HTC Vive Flow Russell Holly/CNET

Next steps: A imaginable launchpad for wherever phone-connected 5G glasses are heading 

According to O'Brien, the Flow's instrumentality to HTC consumer-focused glasses is linked to their being phone-connected, too. Unlike the company's different VR products, the Flow is simply a mobile accessory. Right now, the glasses don't needfully bash each the things afloat VR can, and whitethorn not beryllium arsenic casual to control. But O'Brien hints that accessories for Flow could beryllium coming next, perchance arsenic soon arsenic aboriginal adjacent year. Whether those would beryllium tiny controllers oregon wearable bands remains to beryllium seen. Lots of companies are each trying to get to small, portable glasses-size devices close present successful a assortment of ways, from basal astute glasses to developer-focused AR headsets. The Vive Flow looks similar a antithetic idea, dilatory evolving VR into a glasses form. "We're each trying to lick antithetic friction points and we're each investigating the marketplace successful antithetic ways," says O'Brien. "As the marketplace matures, yet we'll each beryllium wearing these glasses, and they'll person tiny small speakers, and we'll plug them into our USB connections, and the solid shades volition conscionable alteration based connected the environment, whether it's going to beryllium an AR acquisition oregon a VR experience." 

O'Brien was discussing the further-off future, but successful the present and present the Vive Flow is aiming to enactment with planetary carriers, and perchance beryllium a exemplary headset to trial 5G-driven VR apps and content. The Flow seems, successful that sense, similar a ft successful the doorway for HTC's Vive marque to get into the mobile business.

It besides seems similar an evident determination to yet nexus the Flow glasses with fittingness trackers. Meditation and biofeedback are a earthy fit. Some precocious VR devices similar HP's Omnicept are already exploring putting bosom complaint monitors successful VR headsets; the Oculus Quest Pro could add much sensors, too, portion VR fittingness app Supernatural already pairs with an Apple Watch. If the Flow is truly aiming to beryllium a wide meditative wellness instrumentality arsenic good arsenic a portable immersive viewer, it would marque consciousness to amusement bosom complaint changes done a paired ticker successful the future.

"If you person a wrist tracker that's tracking your elbow position, your wrist presumption [with accelerometer], and it tracks your oxygen, your heart, and each these different things that tin archer the merchandise what it's doing, there's immense worth successful that," says O'Brien.

Right now, the Vive Flow stands alone, with nary other accessories. There are a batch of truly large ideas here, but who is this headset for? MyndVR, a institution that delivers experiences and intelligence exercises for an older audiences, volition beryllium 1 of the motorboat apps. The headset's smaller value and size could besides assistance radical deterioration it much casually for longer periods of time. That said, the prerelease interface I tried didn't look similar thing a caller VR idiosyncratic would recognize connected their ain without frustration. While the Flow's quality to enactment with your telephone is cool, this full happening truly feels similar it could payment from a abstracted controller. 

The HTC Vive Flow starts astatine $499: little costly than HTC's Vive Focus 3 stand-alone headset, but you inactive request to bargain a 10,000-mAh artillery from HTC separately oregon supply your own, and the carrying lawsuit to support the Vive Flow harmless is sold separately unless you instrumentality vantage of the preorder starting Oct. 14. (Also, you request a compatible phone.) That terms whitethorn look precocious compared with the Oculus Quest 2, but the Vive Flow is besides a batch much interactive and immersive than thing similar Facebook's $300 Ray-Ban Stories sunglasses (which do, however, enactment arsenic glasses). In the prerelease signifier we were exposed to, the HTC Vive Flow is simply a bid of incredibly chill ideas successful request of an interface to bring it each together. By the clip the retail exemplary is acceptable for review, hopefully that volition person changed.

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