HTC Vive Flow
Introductory price 549 €
Are we about to leave the era of VR headsets to enter the era of VR glasses? In any case, this is what HTC intends to work on by launching the HTC Vive Flow, a device that the manufacturer itself refers to by the expression “immersive glasses”. With this new design much more compact than anything that has existed in the mainstream market so far, HTC aims to provide an ideal format for light VR experiences, such as watching videos, relaxing and meditation, or small games. We have already been able to take it in hand for a few minutes.
Autonomous headset, but not too much
It is therefore a completely new design that sports this Vive Flow; and if we do not doubt for a second that his daring aesthetic will cause much discussion and commentary, we have to admit that he tries many things in terms of ergonomics. Its featherweight in particular appeals: 189 grams, or a third of that of an Oculus Quest 2. This is what allows it to hold on the head by means of “simple” branches, and not a headband. full. Very surprisingly, this does not prevent it from offering a very satisfactory support.
This featherweight is partly enabled by the absence of a real internal battery in the device. The Vive Flow is indeed a stand-alone headset, but only partially: it has its own internal processor, but is still designed to operate connected to a USB power source. The manufacturer recommends the use of an external battery, or a smartphone in reverse charge mode – at the risk of emptying the tank at high speed.
Integrated optical correction for eyeglass wearers
The Vive Flow offers motion detection with 6 degrees of freedom (rotations and movements) of the “inside out” type, provided by two cameras housed under the “glasses”. It embeds LCD screens of combined definition 3.2 K, ie 1600 px wide per eye, at a fixed refresh rate at 75 Hz. The field of view is announced at 100 °; but as always, this figure is given purely as an indication, and must be taken with a grain of salt, as the angle actually perceived by the user depends on many different parameters. However, we can say that during our test, the field of vision seemed quite small, significantly less than what the full-size VR headsets offer on the current market. The visual immersion provided is not the most convincing that is, but it remains fully satisfactory for watching videos or for mainly frontal experiences, for which the Flow is mainly intended. The lens spacing is not physically adjustable, but we are promised that the optics offer a sweetspot wide enough to accommodate any interpupillary distance between 60 and 70mm.
Due to its very small dimensions, the Vive Flow cannot be worn over prescription glasses; but people with vision problems are not forgotten. It is even on this subject that the new HTC helmet offers one of its most astonishing discoveries: its optics include as standard a correction whose diopter can be adjusted independently for each eye by means of a dial. This correction concerns only myopia, but it is in a normal sense: in essence, a fixed focal length VR headset only ever requires an accommodation of the cornea to infinity, and it is therefore not essential to correct also hyperopia or presbyopia. For the author of these lines, astigmatic myopic, this integrated correction works surprisingly well, and is enough to provide a completely satisfactory and natural visual experience.
Android smartphone required
Regarding content, Vive Flow will be based on the one hand on video content (360 ° videos, or “flat” videos in personal cinema mode) that it can stream from the user’s phone via Miracast. , and on the other hand on a catalog of applications developed specifically for it, and distributed via the Viveport platform. We are promised a hundred applications available at launch.
In all cases, the acquisition of this content must therefore go through a smartphone… only on Android. The manufacturer does not rule out bringing iPhone compatibility to Vive Flow in the future, but it does not risk any promises for the moment. This same smartphone also serves as a remote control inside VR applications, since the headset does not come with any controller, nor does it offer bare hand tracking.
The HTC Vive Flow will be launched during the month of November, at a fairly elite target price of € 549.