Updated: Jan 6
HTC are the makers of arguably the most premium VR gaming headset on the market, the HTC Vive. And they have announced a new VR headset, the HTC Vive Flow. The key difference in the Flow is that it is not targeted towards the gaming community, rather a non-gaming VR base. The Flow is set to have a launch price of $500 USD. With VR struggling to interest the non-gaming audience, is the cost of entry being $200 more than the Oculus (a gaming-focused competitor) the next best step for the VR market? I don’t think so, but maybe after looking at some of the features, I'll be convinced otherwise.
The Vive Flow’s goal is to attract a non-gaming audience into VR. Similar to HTC’s gaming headset, their focus is on quality at a premium price. For the most part, HTC had done well but due to the Oculus Quest’s focus on portability, as their headset does not require a PC setup, the VR PC gaming community has started to disappear. Due to this, HTC decided to pivot their audience for the Vive Flow. With the $200 price increase and having remarkably fewer features than the $300 Oculus Quest, what exclusive features will sell this headset? The most attractive ones are its size and ability to use a smartphone to control the headset’s features.
The Vive Flow is the lightest and smallest headset on the market, making it easy to transport and use without having to carry around a bulky headset. It’s approximately the size of a large pair of goggles, this portability is something that VR needs to focus on if it’s to become a staple of technology in the future. On top of that, the Vive offers full coverage of the eyes. Other VR headsets generally don’t cover the eyes entirely, allowing exterior light in and glimpses of the outside world to show during use. This can ruin the immersion and break the vision of VR, so the Flow’s ability to completely cover one's face fixes one of the major flaws of headsets today. All around, the Vive Flow appears easy to use and lightweight for more comfortable use.
Another of the Flow’s key features is its ability to use your smartphone as the controller. Other VR headsets have had a gaming-like controller to control it, and some even use hand recognition. As most keep their phones on them, the Flow forgoes this for a phone app, and you’re able to take it out and control the headset. This makes the headset easily accessible as one has the ability to take out and use the headset without much set up anywhere they want. At least, one would hope.
While some of the headset’s features are beneficial to accessibility, this headset also comes with some drawbacks regarding accessibility. The biggest drawback is that the Flow has to be plugged in to be used. So while it is easily portable, you need to have access to an outlet to be able to use it. If not plugged in, it will turn off immediately as its battery is not meant to hold a charge. If VR is to be the future of tech beyond gaming, similar to smartphones, users need to be able to use it anywhere, allowing it to become second nature. Forcing users to plug in the headset while there are other cheaper alternatives in the market that do not have that restriction limits the Flow’s market potential.