It's time for virtual reality to go on a diet. HTC is about to launch the Vive Flow, an extremely compact "glasses" format VR headset, designed for video viewing and light VR applications. We were able to try it.
HTC Vive Flow Launch price €549 Give your opinion In the absence of offers, find out
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Are we about to leave the era of VR headsets to enter that 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 designates by the expression “immersive glasses”. With this new design much more compact than anything that has existed on the consumer market so far, HTC aims to offer an ideal format for light VR experiences, such as watching videos, relaxation and meditation, or small games. We have already been able to take it in hand for a few minutes.
It is therefore a completely new design that this Vive Flow sports; and if we do not doubt for a second that its daring aesthetic will cause much discussion and commentary, it must be recognized that it tries many things in terms of ergonomics. Its light weight in particular calls out: 189 grams, or a third of that of an Oculus Quest 2. This is what allows it to be held 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 made possible by the absence of a real internal battery in the device. The Vive Flow is indeed an autonomous headset, but only partially: it embeds its own internal processor, but is still designed to work connected to a USB energy source. The manufacturer recommends the use of an external battery, or a smartphone in reverse charging mode – at the risk of emptying its tank at high speed.
The Vive Flow offers motion detection with 6 degrees of freedom (rotations and displacements) of the "inside out" type, provided by two cameras housed under the "glasses". It embeds 3,2 K combined definition LCD screens, i.e. 1600 px wide per eye, with a fixed refresh rate of 75 Hz. The field of vision is announced at 100°; but as always, this figure is given for information only, and should 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 limited to us, significantly lower than what full-size VR headsets on the current market offer. The visual immersion provided is not the most convincing, but it is still amply 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 suit any interpupillary distance between 60-70mm.
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 helmet from HTC offers one of its most astonishing finds: its optics include a correction as standard, the diopter of which can be adjusted independently for each eye by means of a wheel. This correction only concerns myopia, but it is in a normal sense: in essence, a fixed-focus VR headset only ever requires accommodation of the cornea at infinity, and it is therefore not essential to correct also hyperopia or presbyopia. For the author of these lines, myopic astigmatism, this integrated correction works surprisingly well, and is enough to provide a completely satisfying and natural visual experience.
Regarding content, the Vive Flow will rely 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.
Miniature speakers are built into the temples. It is also possible to use Bluetooth headphones or headphones – but not wired, in the absence of a mini-jack output. © HTC
In any case, the acquisition of this content must therefore go through a smartphone… only under Android. The manufacturer does not rule out providing Vive Flow with iPhone compatibility in the future, but it is not risking any promises for the moment. This same smartphone also serves as a remote inside the VR apps, since the headset doesn't come with any controller, nor does it offer bare-hand tracking.
The glasses can be folded up to be more easily transported. © HTC
The HTC Vive Flow will be launched during the month of November, at a rather elitist indicative price of €549.