HTC Vive Flow is a virtual reality viewer that is not designed for gaming but for relaxation and entertainment: here's how it's made, what it can do and how much it costs
Once very strong in the smartphone market, the Taiwanese brand HTC has also focused in recent years on the niche of virtual reality viewers. The last of the devices d iquesta range has just been presented: it is called HTC Vive Flow and is a viewer "stand alone", that is, that does not need a computer to work but is satisfied with a smartphone.
To be precise, an Android smartphone since it does not yet have an app for iOS. HTC Vive Flow is a strange product: due to some technical limitations, in fact, it's not so much designed for gaming as for other very specific applications such as mindfulness courses for guided relaxation, but also for smart work and even for entertainment and to enjoy normal streaming content in a different way. It is, therefore, a device a bit 'hybrid and that could bring many users to the world of virtual reality, if it were not for a price that, compared to other products of this type, is certainly not very low.
HTC Vive Flow: technical characteristics
HTC Vive Flow is a virtual reality viewer very slim and lightweight, which focuses primarily on the convenience of use and transport. To look at it looks like a small visor, or large glasses if you prefer, the fact is that the weight is contained in 189 grams (less than a top of the range smartphone 2021).
The viewer offers two screens of 2.1 inches and 1600×1600 pixels each (for an equivalent resolution of 3.2K), with a refresh rate of 75 Hz. For each screen you can adjust the diopters, so that HTC Vive Flow can be used even by those with vision problems, without the need to wear contact lenses.
To further increase the comfort of use HTC has included in this viewer a small fan, which cools the screens and the face of the wearer of the device. For audio, however, there are two speakers built into the temples, compatible with space audio. There is also the option to connect external Bluetooth speakers. The two microphones in the HTC Vive Flow have echo and noise cancellation.
Until now, we haven't talked about the controllers, which are usually added to the visor to interact with the virtual environment. We haven't mentioned them because, quite simply, HTC Vive Flow doesn't have controllers: it uses the smartphone attached to it, and more importantly the smartphone's built-in sensors, to allow the user to "do things" in the virtual environment they see on the screens.
It does have a system, albeit a basic one, for tracking head movement. It's a "6dof" (6 dregrees of freedom) system based on data collected by two cameras built into the device. Finally, the screens have video pass-through to temporarily "turn off" the virtual reality and show the user what is in front of his eyes.
The real limitation of HTC Vive Flow is, however, the lack of a real battery: the device must be connected to a power cord, so it is unthinkable to use it to move freely in a room (real and virtual). There is only a small accumulator that allows you to keep HTC Vive Flow on for a few seconds, in case you have to move and need to disconnect the power for a very short period.
However, you can also connect HTC Vive Flow to an external powerbank, to keep in your hand, pocket or belt, to make up for the limitation of the lack of a real battery.
HTC Vive Flow: how much does it cost
HTC Vive Flow is pre-orderable already today from HTC's website, at the European price of 569 euros. Not cheap, considering that the much more powerful Facebook Oculus Quest 2 costs (without external controllers) 349 euros in the basic version.