HTC has unveiled its Vive Flow "immersive glasses". The firm shied away from calling this a 'VR headset' as it is much more light (189g) and portable (comes with a case, just like regular glasses). HTC's Senior Director and Global Head of Hardware Products, Shen Ye, explained the product positioning by drawing parallels to the PC industry. So, while the Vive Pro 2 is like a desktop PC, and the Focus 3 is like a laptop, the Flow is akin to a tablet. It is thought the eminent portability of the Vive Flow will make it suitable for use cases where existing headsets wouldn't be accepted. Interestingly we are seeing HTC target the meditation and wellness market with these new 'glasses'.
Key activities that HTC foresees Flow users indulging in include:
- Meditation 2.0 with apps like TRIPP, or taking a scenic, immersive drive down Route 66 with MyndVR’s original series: A Road to Remember
- Watching TV or movies on their own personal, cinema-sized VR screen
- Exercising their minds with brain training apps
- Collaborating and socializing with colleagues and friends on VIVE Sync
The video embedded above has some use case examples for the HTC Flow.
HTC shared some technical details of the design, which are quite impressive. Already you will have gauged one of the most impressive feats of this hardware is in its light weight and compact design. Ye says two major strategies that helped in this design goal were the use of dioptre lenses where glasses would usually go, and shrinking the optical tube with a new lens and display assembly. Despite these challenges, the glasses still offer a 100° FOV and 3.2k res (combined, so roughly 1,600 × 1,600 pixels per-eye), with a 75Hz refresh rate. For reference, the Focus 3 and Pro 2 have a 120° FOV but are much larger and weightier. The light weight of the Flow allows it to be much more comfortable using traditional spectacle ear rests rather than a strap.
HTC says that the Flow, as it is a standalone device (sans power), uses the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 processor and includes 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM. The glasses offer 6DOF head-tracking too. Hand tracking is expected to arrive with a future update.
If you look closely at the design and some of the images, you will see there is a 'thermal system' which has a dual purpose of cooling the headset and cooling the user's face with air, preventing lens fogging. Another interesting design feature is the USB power connector over the right arm of the glasses. HTC didn't want to put a battery in this device, so it could keep the weight down, but thanks to the USB-C connector you can easily power it via a common-or-garden wall charger, a USB port on public transport, a power bank (5hrs on 10,000mAh), or even your phone. A very small battery in the glasses allows for power source hot-swap (5 minutes run time).
Instead of making dedicated controllers for the Flow, HTC decided to make a user's sensor packed and Bluetooth equipped phone the controller (with 3DOF). The paired phone can optionally expand the use of the HTC Flow with call/text/notification mirroring, as well as mirroring lots of the content you can get on your phone (with Miracast), offering DRM compatibility with lots of entertainment sources such as Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, and more.
Speakers offering spatial audio are embedded in the ear rests of the device, and there are twin microphones too (with echo and noise reduction). For private listening and mic alternatives, you can connect Bluetooth audio devices.
In an email to HEXUS, HTC said that those interested will be able to buy the Vive Flow for £499 / from €549, and for USD $499 from vive.com/vive-flow. If you order before the November release date, you will get the official Vive Flow carry case and a gift bundle of 7 pieces of content for free. Additionally, HTC would like users to consider a content subscription for Viveport at £5.29 per month (lots of apps, games, etc).