Vive Flow Gets A Business Edition & Optional Controller

HTC launched the Vive Flow Business Edition this week, an enterprise version of its lightweight immersive viewer headset.

As we covered in our review, Flow is the lightest VR headset on the Western market at just 189 grams. However, it’s a device with fairly niche use cases and some major caveats.

Flow is controlled by your phone as a rotational laser pointer, but that’s obviously not ideal for business use cases so HTC is now selling an optional $59 controller. The controller isn’t positionally tracked either though, it also just acts as a laser pointer. HTC says the controller can also be purchased by consumers.

Importantly, Flow is a tethered headset — to use the headset, it needs to connect to a USB power source. Flow only supports a very small and specific list of Android phones, with no iPhone or laptop support.

The Business Edition also comes with a two-year commercial warranty and an expedited return and replacement system, if needed. On the software side, there’s also ‘Kiosk Mode’ — this allows content to be queued or started remotely, on behalf of the user, and prevents accidentally closure of an experience.

Vive Flow Business Edition is available through Vive’s Business site for $499.

HTC Brings OpenXR Public Beta to Vive Focus 3

HTC announced this week it is making available an OpenXR public beta for the Vive Focus 3. OpenXR is designed to make it easier for developers to create a single app that’s cross-compatible with multiple OpenXR-supporting headsets.

OpenXR is a royalty-free standard that aims to standardize the development of XR applications, making hardware and software more interoperable. In the best case scenario, an app built to be compliant with OpenXR can run on any OpenXR-supporting headset with no changes to its underlying code.

Image courtesy Khronos Group

OpenXR has seen a slow but steady adoption since reaching version ‘1.0’ in 2019, and picked up significant steam in 2021 with official support on SteamVRMeta going “all in” on OpenXR, “production-ready” OpenXR support in Unreal Engine, and more.

And now HTC’s latest enterprise-focused standalone headset, Vive Focus 3, has moved significantly closer to the finish line. The company announced this week that it’s ready for developers to test out the headset’s OpenXR support through a public beta.

“We’re committed to enabling the developer community to build the content and applications that power experiences across the spectrum of reality,” said Dario Laverde, Director of Developer Relations at HTC Vive. “With OpenXR, more developers will be able to bring their content to Vive Focus 3, and users will benefit from an expanded app library and more flexibility in terms of how they consume content. We strongly believe it’s a win for the XR industry as a whole.”

Now that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to buy Quest applications and run them on Vive Focus 3… but it does mean that developers should have a much easier time porting their apps to run on Vive Focus 3, if they choose to offer their apps on the headset.

Developers interested in using OpenXR on Vive Focus 3 can find instructions for joining the public beta and using the standard in Unity at HTC’s developer forum.

The post HTC Brings OpenXR Public Beta to Vive Focus 3 appeared first on Road to VR.

HTC’s Vive Focus 3 Standalone Headset Gets Beta OpenXR Support

HTC’s Vive Focus 3 standalone headset now has beta support for OpenXR content.

OpenXR is the open standard API for VR and AR development. It was developed by Khronos, the same non-profit industry consortium managing OpenGL. OpenXR includes all the major companies in the space such as Meta, Sony, Valve, Microsoft, HTC, NVIDIA, and AMD – but notably not Apple. It officially released in 2019.

The promise of OpenXR is to let developers build apps that can run on any headset without having to specifically add support by integrating proprietary SDKs. Developers still need to compile separate builds for different operating systems, but all current standalone VR headsets use Android.

Last year Meta deprecated its proprietary Oculus SDK in favor of OpenXR, so Vive Focus 3’s support for OpenXR should make it easier for Quest apps to be ported. HTC still only markets the headset to businesses though – the $1299 price includes a two year business license, extended warranty, and priority support.

There are still barriers to releasing VR apps to other stores however. Platform level APIs like friend invites, parties, leaderboards, cloud saves, and avatars still differ. Porting involves a lot more work than the ideal of OpenXR may suggest.

Running OpenXR apps on Vive Focus 3 currently requires joining the beta program. For developers, HTC has instructions for building OpenXR content in Unity on the Vive forums.

HTC’s Viverse Blunder, Minecraft Mods On Quest & Green Hell VR Impressions – VR Gamescast

This week on the VR Gamescast we’re talking Minecraft mods on Quest and that Viverse trailer. You know the one.

Join us at 5pm UK/12pm ET/9am PT!

Harry and Jamie are back in the Upload Studio to break down the week’s news and previews. Kicking things off, we dissect that strange and really rather awful Viveverse trailer from HTC and try to make some sense of it. Do we really want to buy virtual cat art? And how the heck are you meant to taste virtual wine?

Elsewhere we’ve got the latest headlines. There’s more VR mod madness in the form of Minecraft: Java Edition coming unofficially to Quest and a teaser for the Cyberpunk 2077 VR mod. Plus we dive into the news that Coatsink is working on a PSVR 2 launch title, discussing what it could possible be. Finally there’s the full reveal of After The Fall’s Frontrunner season. Is it enough to satisfy fans and bring other players back into the fold?

Over in the impressions, we’ve played the Steam Next Fest demo of Green Hell VR. Is the jungle-set survival game living up to its potential? Jamie gives his thoughts.

The VR Gamescast comes your way every week, usually at 5pm UK/12pm ET/9am PT on a Thursday. Make sure to join the premiered video on YouTube, or head to a podcast service of your choice to listen to the audio version. We’ll see you next week!

Year In Review: The Biggest VR & AR Stories Of 2021

While perhaps lacking some of the huge, jaw-dropping announcements of previous years, 2021 was a surprisingly busy year for VR and AR.

We’re looking back at the year that was with this list of the biggest stories from 2021.

It was an interesting year for VR and AR – there were several new hardware announcements, the Quest 2 continued to dominate and some absolutely killer, innovative games were released. And yet, we’re also left a feeling that 2021 might just be the calm before an incoming VR/AR storm.

Read on for the biggest and best VR/AR stories of 2021, month by month.


January

Beat Saber 90Hz Support Hits Quest 2 In New Update
Read Here

Hitman 3 VR Review – A (Mostly) Clean Kill
Read Here

Editorial: Oculus Quest 2 Developer Success Marks New Era For VR
Read Here


Oculus ‘App Lab’: Quest Platform Gets Non-Store App Distribution
Read Here

Sony Confirms Next-Generation PS5 VR Headset Coming Post-2021
Read Here

Sony: PS5 VR Is ‘Completely New Format’, Dev Kits ‘About To Go Out’
Read Here

Report: Apple’s Dual 8K VR Headset With Eye Tracking Could Cost $3000
Read Here


Kuo: Apple’s VR Headset Around $1000, AR Glasses Pushed To 2025
Read Here

Nearly 20% Of Facebook’s Employees Are Working On VR/AR
Read Here

Facebook Says Quest 2 Already Outsold Every Previous Oculus Headset Combined
Read Here

PS5 VR Controllers Revealed By Sony – Finger Detection, Analog Sticks, Inside-Out Tracking
Read Here


HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Launches In May For $1,249
Read Here

Facebook Brings Subscription Support To Quest
Read Here

Resident Evil 4 VR Is Coming To Oculus Quest 2
Read Here

Confirmed: Resident Evil 4 VR Is The First Quest 2 Exclusive
Read Here

Facebook Canceled Oculus Rift 2 Just Before Production – Palmer Luckey
Read Here

Floor Plan 2 Review: A Henson-Esque Marvel
Read Here

Oculus Quest 2 To Get PC VR Air Link, 120 Hz, And Desk Support
Read Here

HoloLens 2 Review: Ahead Of Its Time, For Better And Worse
Read Here

Oculus Quest 2 Now Has A 60 Hz Hand Tracking Mode
Read Here

Oculus Air Link Launches For All With v28 On Quest 2 & PC
Read Here


HTC Announces Vive Pro 2 For Consumers & Vive Focus 3 For Businesses
Read Here

Vive Focus 3 Specs: 5K LCD, 120° FoV, Swappable Rear Battery, $1300
Read Here

Vive Pro 2 Specs: 5K 120Hz LCD, New 120° Lenses, SteamVR Tracking
Read Here

Demeo Review – A Social VR Masterclass In An Engaging Tabletop RPG
Read Here

Oculus v29 Update Adds 120Hz Air Link Support
Read Here

FRL VP ‘Doesn’t Have An Issue’ With Quest Store On Other Headsets
Read Here

Exclusive: Next-Gen PlayStation VR Is 4K With Foveated Rendering And Vibration Feature
Read Here


Facebook: ‘Long Term’ Oculus Studios Titles Targeting Quest 2
Read Here

Facebook Starts Advertising In Virtual Reality
Read Here

Larcenauts Review: A Slick, Rich Shooter For Competitive Play
Read Here

Oculus Quest v30 Rolling Out With Microphone Swapping And Multitasking
Read Here


Sniper Elite VR Review: Old Dog, New Tricks
Read Here

Quest 2 Experimental Mixed Reality & Passthrough API Details
Read Here

Oculus Quest v31 Adds Experimental Passthrough API For Mixed Reality
Read Here

Quest 2 Sales Paused As 4 Million Facial Interfaces Recalled
Read Here

Oculus Quest 2 128GB Model On Sale August 24 For $299
Read Here

Steam Deck Could Be Used With Oculus Quest, Gabe Newell Says
Read Here


PS5 VR Headset Will Have HDR OLED Display, Hybrid AAA Games – Report
Read Here

Confirmed: TikTok Owner ByteDance Buying Pico VR
Read Here

I Expect You To Die 2 Review: A Worthy Sequel Rich With Detail
Read Here

Valve Suggests Steam Deck Processor Could Be Used In Standalone VR Headset
Read Here

A Township Tale Review: A Fascinating Glimpse Of A Future VR Great (Quest)
Read Here

Facebook Launches Horizon Workrooms To Power Remote Work
Read Here


Facebook Reveals $299 Ray-Ban Stories Smartglasses With Camera And Assistant
Read Here

Report Claims Apple AR-VR Headset Uses iPhone/iPad/Mac For Advanced Features
Read Here

Andrew Bosworth To Take Over As Facebook CTO In 2022
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Report: Apple’s AR-VR Headset To Launch Second Half Of 2022
Read Here

Reports: Valve Working On ‘Deckard’ Standalone Headset With ‘VRLink’ Wireless
Read Here

Medal of Honor: Above And Beyond Is Coming to Oculus Quest 2 This Year
Read Here

Eyes-On: Facebook’s First Glasses Pave The Way For Public AR
Read Here

Quest Pro Potential Specs & Apparent Controller Images Leak
Read Here


Oculus Quest Pro Leak? Promo Videos Show Possible Headset Design
Read Here

Lynx Standalone AR-VR Headset Kickstarter Launches With $500 Price
Read Here

Facebook Rebrands Social VR Platform ‘Horizon Worlds’, Offers $10M To Makers
Read Here

Varjo Aero Review: A Powerhouse Headset With Some Big Question Marks
Read Here

Unplugged Review: Thrilling Air Guitar With Unmatched Hand Tracking Capabilities
Read Here

Microsoft Shows Off Adaptive Shape VR Controller Prototype
Read Here

Song in the Smoke Review: A Primal VR Survival Game With Real Majesty
Read Here

HTC Vive Flow Announced: Compact $499 6DOF VR Headset
Read Here

HP Releasing Upgraded Reverb G2 With Better Tracking
Read Here

Resident Evil 4 VR Review: An Incredible Way To Revisit A Classic
Read Here

Facebook Responds To Changes To Sexist Sequences In Resident Evil 4 VR
Read Here

Zuckerberg Announces Facebook Company Rebrand To Meta
Read Here

Oculus Quest Devs Will Get Speech Recognition, Tracked Keyboard, Hand Interaction Library
Read Here

Meta Announces AR Glasses Prototype Project Nazare
Read Here

Meta: Quest VR Headsets ‘Won’t Need A Facebook Account’ From 2022
Read Here

Quest Users Unlinking Facebook Account Keep Their Purchases, Meta Confirms
Read Here

Oculus Brand Dead, Oculus Quest To Become Meta Quest
Read Here

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Is Coming To Oculus Quest 2
Read Here

New ‘High End’ Headset Codenamed ‘Cambria’ Launching Next Year
Read Here


Quest 2 Now Shows Pets, People, & Android Phone Notifications
Read Here

PlayStation Patent Filing Shows Work On Eye-Tracking With Foveated Rendering
Read Here

Meta Shows Research Towards Consumer Force Feedback Haptic Gloves
Read Here

HaptX: Meta’s Glove Tech ‘Substantively Identical’ To Our Patents
Read Here

Quest’s App Lab Now Supports DLC And In-App Payments
Read Here

HTC Vive Flow Review: A Niche Within A Niche
Read Here

Hitman 3 PC VR Support Confirmed, Coming Next Year
Read Here

Meta Quest 2 Is Already Replacing Oculus Quest 2 Branding
Read Here

Application SpaceWarp Can Give Quest Apps 70% More Performance
Read Here

Kuo: Apple Headset To Launch Late 2022 With 4K Displays & M1 Level Performance
Read Here


Upload VR Showcase Winter 2021: Everything Announced
Read Here

Apple Hiring AR/VR Frameworks Engineer For ‘Entirely New Application Paradigm’
Read Here

Horizon Worlds Beta Goes Public In US & Canada With 18+ Age Requirement
Read Here

Among Us VR Announced For Quest, PSVR And PC VR
Read Here

New Meta Avatars Now Available To All Unity Developers
Read Here

Kuo: Apple Headset Is 300-400 Grams, Second Gen Will Be “Significantly Lighter”
Read Here

Meta Supernatural Acquisition: FTC Opens Antitrust Probe For $400 Million Deal – Report
Read Here

After The Fall Review: Frantically Fun Co-Op That Needs More Content
Read Here

Watch: Blaston Passthrough On Quest Turns Your Living Room Into An Arena
Read Here


What were your favourite VR/AR stories of 2021? Let us know in the comments below.

HTC is Getting into the NFT Craze with the Opening of Its Own Store Soon

HTC is opening a non-fungible token (NFT) store soon that its says will host all forms of digital art, including AR, VR, and XR pieces.

The store, which will open on December 17th, is set to first offer NFTs featuring the works of Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939), which is being offered as a part of a collaboration with the Mucha Foundation.

The NFT sale will coincide with the opening of the ‘Mucha to Manga – The Magic of the Line’ exhibition in Taipei.

Here’s a video in Chinese about the show, displaying some of Mucha’s iconic art.

The store is said to offer complete control over the number of NFT editions and the format of the sale, with both fiat and crypto currencies accepted as payment.

HTC says a new NFT series will come to the store each month until April 2022, which will conclude with what it describes as “a special auction.”

For those of us in the VR space, all of this may seem a bit out of left field for the company, which over the years has built itself a significant niche in creating enterprise VR hardware. HTC is no stranger to jumping on the crypto bandwagon though. In 2019 the company released Exodus 1, a blockchain-focused smartphone that acts as a hardware wallet for storing cryptocurrency among other things.

How NFTs fit into all of that, well, there’s no telling how deep of a commitment the store actually represents. The company’s VIVE Arts initiative has been involved in bringing art-themed content to Viveport, but moreover it bringing VR to cultural institutions in limited-time exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London’s Royal Academy of Arts, Taipei’s National Palace Museum, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, Washington D.C.’s Newseum, and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum since its founding in 2017.

Granted, NFT auctions are a far cry from bringing art to the masses—they primarily function as crypto-investment vehicles—although the earning potential for both the creators and buyers can’t be overstated.

The storied Christie’s auction house oversaw the sale of one NFT for $69 million back in March, something many NFT creators have hoped to replicate. Whether HTC makes those sort of headlines isn’t certain. At least Alphonse Mucha didn’t exclusively paint bored apes.

The post HTC is Getting into the NFT Craze with the Opening of Its Own Store Soon appeared first on Road to VR.

HTC Vive Flow Review: A Niche Within A Niche

HTC’s Vive Flow is by far the lightest VR headset on the market, but should anyone actually buy it?

Flow was announced in October just a week before Facebook Connect 2021 after a month of teases, speculation, and leaks. It started shipping at the start of this month.

While many hoped for a direct Quest 2 competitor, HTC describes Flow as mostly passive “immersive glasses” for media viewing, casual games, and “on the go wellness”. But is it worth the $499 price? And who exactly is it for? Read on to find out.

Compatibility

To start, you can only use Flow with a very specific list of Android phones. HTC told us it’s “looking into” iPhone and Laptop support, but there’s no concrete timeline for either.

Flow is a wired device with a female USB Type-C connector, but the cable is used for power rather than data (other than to sideload content). HTC says you can use almost any USB port to power it, including laptops, phones, and those offered by trains, planes, and hotel rooms. I found any port I tried worked.

The limited phone compatibility comes from using Miracast to wirelessly stream your phone to a virtual screen in VR. To support other phones, HTC would need to use a cable which, without a new adapter, would force you to use your phone as the power source.

Comfort, Visuals, Audio, Tracking

At just 189 grams, Flow is the lightest headset you can buy in the west. You can still feel weight against your nasal bridge but it’s significantly reduced compared to headsets like Quest 2.

What’s less comfortable than other headsets is the rigid arms. While they remove the need for a top strap, they put uncomfortable pressure on the side of larger heads. I did find this got better with each passing day though, presumably as the arms stretched over time.

The fabric gasket which blocks the peripheral light from your real room attaches magnetically. It can be detached and replaced with a nose insert. This actually feels more comfortable, and is even preferable for situations where immersion doesn’t matter. Bright lights in the room can reflect in the lenses though.

Flow doesn’t accommodate glasses, because it has per-lens diopter adjustment instead. You simply twist the ridge of each lens. I don’t wear glasses, but had family who do try this and they said it worked, providing a clear image.

While the 1600×1600 LCD displays are technically lower resolution than Quest 2, the slightly narrower field of view means the visual quality is actually very similar. What isn’t similar though is the stability. Like with Varjo Aero, I noticed geometric distortion when rotating my head that makes the virtual world not feel solid.

The quality of the built-in audio is surprisingly good given the small size of the speakers, but the sound of the cooling fan is often distracting. Thankfully Bluetooth audio is fully supported for private listening and I didn’t experience connection issues with it.

Unlike Oculus Go (Facebook’s 2018 take on the VR media viewer concept) Flow has positional tracking, enabled by two greyscale cameras. But whereas the inside-out tracking on Quest 2 and Windows headsets like HP Reverb G2 feel solid and consistent, Flow’s tracking feels swimmy and sometimes even seems to bounce. Worse, looking directly up at the ceiling often causes a “positional tracking lost” error.

Double tapping the button on the headset toggles camera passthrough, but as with Quest 2 the view is black & white with low resolution. Flow comfortably rests on the top of your head though, a much better way to quickly see reality.

Phone As Controller

There’s no other way to say it, Flow’s input scheme is clunky.

When wearing the headset your phone, if unlocked, acts as a rotational laser pointer via Bluetooth. The touchscreen is split into four sections, System Menu, Select, “Trigger”, and App Menu. You can also perform swipe gestures.

I get why HTC chose the phone approach. Flow is meant to suit a travelling-light lifestyle and a controller would be one more thing to carry and keep charged. But since you can’t actually see either your phone or fingers inside VR, and the phone isn’t positionally tracked, and you can’t feel out virtual buttons, I sometimes found myself pressing the wrong thing.

Worse, some apps (including some of HTC’s own!) place panels and controls at steep angles, requiring you to either awkwardly bend your wrist or recenter the controller. Ugh.

HTC says controller-free hand tracking will arrive at some point in the future. Some people dislike current hand tracking tech as it doesn’t provide haptic feedback and lacks thumbsticks, but given Flow’s mostly-passive content focus I think it would be ideal. In fact, given how clunky the phone controller experience is, I’m puzzled why HTC didn’t wait for hand tracking before launching this product.

Software, Content, Performance

Flow runs a modified version of Android. The spartan system menu has four sections: Store, Library, Phone (streaming), and Settings.

Streaming your phone screen via Miracast is Flow’s headline feature. It connects quickly without issue and both the quality and latency feel great for apps like Netflix and YouTube. This is Flow at its best. It’s your phone, but on a much much larger (virtual) screen.

Using native VR apps from the store, however, is a far less impressive experience. Most of these apps feel like what we saw in the Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR era, with only a handful of true gems.

Flow uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 chip, which is significantly less powerful than the XR2 found in Quest 2 and Vive Focus 3. I mentioned in my hands-on preview that none of the apps I tried seemed to maintain 75 frames per second. Unfortunately that’s still the case in almost all the apps on the Viveport Flow store.

The combination of low framerate, swimmy tracking, and lens distortion means Flow just isn’t great for immersive experiences. The exception here is 360 videos – if you’re a fan of this content format Flow is a comfortable way to view.

What’s sorely missing is a Virtual Desktop like app to view your PC screen in VR. Better yet, HTC could support laptops in place of your phone, automatically booting into a virtual desktop when plugged in for both data and power. Right now there is no PC integration at all.

Who Is Flow For?

So I’ve described the experience of using Flow, but the question remains: who exactly is this product for?

There are a few small niches I can see it appealing to: people who live in shared accommodation with no space for their own TV, and people who frequently travel by plane or train to stay in hotel rooms. For these people, Flow would be a portable personal cinema. At $499 few could truly justify Flow, but if future similar products can reach much lower prices this could become a real sub-market of VR.

For everyone else, Flow feels like a concept without a purpose. If you have regular access to a TV and don’t travel often I really can’t find a reason you’d want one. At least not yet.

HTC ‘Looking Into’ Iphone And Laptop Support For Vive Flow

HTC is “looking into” iPhone and laptop support for its upcoming VR headset, the Vive Flow, but they won’t be included at launch.

Currently, you need to connect an Android smartphone to the Flow via a native app. This allows you not only to control experiences by using your handset as a motion controller similar to those for the Gear VR or Oculus Go but also to use Miracast to bring your phone’s screen and features into VR. From there you can watch media apps like YouTube and Netflix.

HTC Vive Flow iPhone Support Under Investigation

But HTC explained to UploadVR that iPhone doesn’t support Miracast, and thus a crucial feature of the device would be missing. Finding a way around this issue would be tough.

That said, even without Miracast and simply using the iPhone as a controller, you could still access the library of native apps HTC is preparing for the Vive Flow. That includes meditative experiences like Nature Treks VR and some simpler gaming content too. Hopefully we might see at least that basic functionality come to the iPhone in the future.

The company also told us it was also exploring potential connections to a PC or laptop though, again, it isn’t a focus for launch.

We tried Vive Flow for ourselves this week and came away optimistic. The device weighs just 189g and is comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Pre-orders launched yesterday and the kit is set to start shipping in early November.

Are you an iPhone user hoping to pick up the HTC Vive Flow? Let us know in the comments below!

Analyst Take: Why HTC Vive Flow Should Have Enterprise Subscriptions

There is a place in the market for a headset like HTC’s Vive Flow, however, I am not sure that it works in its current state.

Here’s a breakdown of why.

Why does Vive Flow Exist?

Let’s start with Vive Flow’s purpose, according to HTC Vive.

The company says it is primarily for meditation, entertainment, or productivity. This seems valid especially when you consider that the design is much more accessible than previous generations of VR headsets, and it has a removable face gasket for easy maintenance. That said, the Vive Flow still requires an external battery for use which for many may end up being a major objection. Vive Flow weighs a meager 189g, which is primarily because it has only a small battery designed to allow for hot swapping an external power supply without the device turning off.

HTC sees Vive Flow as a headset you put on to escape your hectic day and a place you go to relax and play some casual games or experience some meditation apps. The headset is also the most portable VR headset on the market today with the ability to fold up easily and fit inside a very small container for easy transport, something most other VR headsets cannot claim.

The Specs

While most of the specs leaked, the Vive Flow is said to have a 100-degree FOV which is pretty good for such a portable headset.

The display has a resolution of 3.2K and a refresh rate of 75Hz. I believe it is powered by the outdated Qualcomm XR1, which is still a very good chip but shouldn’t be relied upon solely for compute and should mostly be seen as a chip for offloading work from a smartphone or other compute device. Critically, unlike Oculus Go which used XR1, Vive Flow has 6-DoF head tracking even though it does not come with any kind of a controller. With the Vive Flow, your phone is the controller, and interactions are done through your phone’s touchscreen to maximize portability. The headset also has two bottom firing spatial speakers which are great, but are probably best supplemented with noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones for better isolation.

The Experience

I recently got a chance to try out the HTC Vive Flow at a small event in Los Angeles hosted by HTC Vive, and I spent some time with the headset and some of the people involved in making the Flow happen.

Right off the bat, I was impressed by the total thickness and size of the device and the fact that it easily folded up like a pair of glasses/goggles, which isn’t really a thing you can do with VR headsets today. After I got to play with the hardware a bit, I put Vive Flow on and it was instantly clear why this works as a more passive VR experience. This is what Oculus Go was good for, until Facebook killed that product. I think it was a mistake to kill Go because it was perfect for a certain segment of the market that doesn’t need 6-DoF or very high performance, but still could benefit from a quality low-cost media consumption solution.

When I wore Vive Flow, I first tried the TRIPP app which is a digital wellbeing and meditation app that I am familiar with, and the company’s founder and CEO Nanea Reeves spoke very highly of her experience with this headset and how easy it was to work with HTC to port it. It is quite clear apps like TRIPP great for this lightweight goggle form factor, and just the right fidelity for the XR1 chip, which seemed to run TRIPP’s app smoothly. In addition to that, I also played Space Slurpies, which was a more casual gaming app that the developer Alexander Clark ported to Flow. Space Slurpies is a pretty passive, yet engaging 3D version of the popular smartphone game snake, with a twist that this version uses your smartphone as the controller to control your snake’s movement. This game was also engaging and smooth and has both single and multiplayer experiences, which could prove to be a great way to unwind.

Last, but certainly not least, was the ability to mirror your smartphone’s screen via Miracast to the headset. This experience sets you up with the ability to receive phone calls, text messages and view apps on your phone like TikTok and YouTube. This gives you a virtually ‘huge’ screen that also gives you privacy — because you’re viewing it via VR headset — and this also gets around some of the worst content barriers for VR. Specifically, the fact that so many apps don’t let you download content onto a VR headset for viewing offline. The Netflix experience was great, but I could also see this reviving a ton of media consumption experiences that died when apps like Netflix never brought offline support to their VR apps.

Also, while I am very bald, I could absolutely see how this headset could be much easier to use for people who have a lot of hair or simply can’t deal with the current ergonomics of VR headsets. I believe that HTC plans other solutions, but the folding form factor enabling maximum portability is going to be the main use.

Overall, my experience was fairly positive but I was left wondering how much of a market there really is for Vive Flow and whether HTC’s go-to-market makes much sense, especially since the company is pitching this as a consumer product.

Enterprise Use Cases And Pricing?

Vive Flow is a headset that is very good at its intended purpose, but I believe HTC Vive’s go-to-market plan is fairly flawed.

They are rolling out a $6 per month Viveport subscription to make access to content fairly inexpensive, but at $499 I simply don’t see very many people going out of their way to choose this headset over Oculus Quest 2. Additionally, I’m not entirely sure the best applications of this headset are even remotely consumer applications. For example, HTC Vive brought around MyndVR, which is a VR application for helping senior communities transport their residents to other parts of the world virtually. That sounds like a great enterprise application to me. Overall, I could actually see this headset working much better paired with an application like MyndVR or TRIPP as part of a monthly subscription that includes the hardware and software and entirely ignores the current $499 pricing.

I just don’t see consumers necessarily being sold on the form factor first rather than the application first. I could see this headset being far more successful with the backing of Oculus’ content library, but even with that the $499 pricing is simply too much in my mind for most consumers, and that’s why I think an enterprise model makes more sense here.

This is HTC’s first consumer standalone VR headset in a while, especially in the US where none of its standalone headsets ever launched as consumer products. I would really like to see Flow paired with applications that benefit from its portability and make sense offered as a service. This is really the only path I see for the Vive Flow’s success. Currently, HTC plans to sell Vive Flow on its website, direct to consumer with no clear plans to sell it anywhere else.

Disclosure: Anshel Sag is an analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy and, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry. The author does not hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column.

HTC Vive Flow Announced: Compact $499 6DOF VR Headset

After two weeks of teases, the HTC Vive Flow has been officially announced.

As was previously speculated, Vive Flow is based on HTC’s super-slim concept for a VR headset, Project Proton. The device resembles a pair of glasses with very thick lenses and weighs just 189g. The frames feature two hinges, one to help shift the device to fit a range of head sizes and the other so they can be folded up like a normal pair of glasses. It’s technically not a standalone headset, as the kit must be tethered to an external power source like a battery pack for long-term use. The device has a small onboard battery but HTC stresses this is only intended to power it so you have time to plug it back in to another source. Two cameras on the front provide 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF) positional tracking.

HTC Vive Flow Announced

HTC envisions Vive Flow as less of a gaming device and more a headset for media consumption and experiential content. To that end, you connect the device to an Android smartphone to use as a 3DOF controller and also mirror content to view inside VR. There are also native apps, and the company highlighted meditative experiences like TRIPP and Nature Treks VR. HTC also plans to bring hand-tracking support to the device in the future, though this won’t be available at launch. iPhones aren’t supported.

Specs-wise, Flow features 1.6K per-eye resolution, a 100-degree field of view and a 75Hz refresh rate. HTC declined to reveal exactly what processor the device was using, although you definitely shouldn’t expect the same performance as the Oculus Quest 2. The lenses employ diopter dials so you can twist them to find the best visual clarity. The frames feature a built-in audio solution and dual microphones, plus there’s active cooling at the front of the device.

Pre-orders for the Vive Flow go live today on the official site and the device costs $499/€549. Units will start shipping in early November and those that pre-order will also get the protective carry case HTC has been teasing thrown in for free along with seven pieces of content, though exactly what those are hasn’t been revealed.

What do you make of the HTC Vive Flow? Let us know in the comments below.