Facebook’s main opponent in the consumer VR space, HTC, appears to be on the verge of releasing its first standalone headset: the Vive Flow.
The good news is that it’s apparently close enough to release for publicity shots to leak courtesy of tipster Evan Blass. The bad news is that you’ll look a bit like the occasional Simpsons character Dr Colossus when you wear it.
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Before we break down this leak, lets address the elephant in the room, or should that be fly on the wall... The HTC Vive Flow basically looks like a pair of goggles with two large fly-like eyes on them.
While its unclear if these fly eye-like patches on the headset are see through or simply there for design flair, they do conjure up somewhat nightmarish visions of a human being crossed with a fly; think 1986's The Fly movie.
Equally, how comfortable this design will be for the wearer, given it doesn't appear to have a robust strap mechanism, could make this a nightmare for one's face in practical terms. But as all we have are these leaked photos to go off, this is all speculation and the Vive Flow might be surprisingly lightweight for a VR headset
Regardless of aesthetics, the leaked shots point to a standalone headset to rival Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 — the device that’s currently sat atop our list of the best VR headsets you can buy. One slide mentions it has “smarts” built in.
Smarts that apparently require some kind of internal cooling.
In other words, it won’t need to be tethered to a PC in order to play games, though like the Quest 2, that’s still potentially a possibility. Indeed, one of the pictures shows the Vive Flow with a cable running loose, though it may just be to show how it charges.
The Verge speculates that the cylindrical object in the middle of the bag could be something to provide a bit more graphical grunt to the device, similar to the Magic Leap’s Lightpack, though to us it looks like a plain old carry case — something that’s mentioned as a pre-order bonus in the final slide.
As you’ll see from said slide, the price is listed as $499, which would put it at $100 more than the 256GB Oculus Quest 2, and $200 more than the entry-level 128GB version (upped from 64GB the headset initially launched with).
While there are plenty who will go to extreme lengths to have a mobile VR experience without Facebook, for the majority of consumers that could be a leap too far. But a lot depends on what the device actually does, which will likely be confirmed at an HTC event tomorrow, revealingly titled “Go with the Flow”. One slide intriguingly suggests that the device is built for “well-being and mindful productivity,” which is certainly a USP.
In other words, something’s coming, and while you should certainly take any leaks with a pinch of salt, Blass’ pedigree here is second to none. And while some have pointed out the similarity between one shot and a piece of stock photography, that may say a bit more about how publicity shots are constructed than be the smoking gun of evidence that we’re going to be disappointed on Thursday.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.