Avram has been very open about his belief that the HTC VIVE hardware is his favorite. It has always had a solid screen system, the tracking is great, and the controllers are fairly natural to hold. But, while the insides have upgraded over the years, the look of the headset hasn't really changed. It's been really high-profile, fairly heavy, and not designed for portability. But, HTC has changed this with the addition of the new VIVE Flow, a headset designed for portability and focused on health and wellness. But, what a noticeable change in physical design.
The new headset, which can be seen above, is truly wild-looking. If you have ever wanted to cosplay as Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, the headset might be for you. All joking aside, the change is both crazy and welcomed. While the appearance is a little like a fly's eyes, they are also designed more like sunglasses. This is going to significantly change the balance of weight on the headset, and place it above the nose, as opposed to below the nose. No longer will the headset both push and pull on your nose at the same time, a positive change.
But, the real change here is in the headset's purpose. Rather than being a tethered headset intended for gamers, the VIVE Flow is intended to be used on the go. Not quite the way the HoloLens could be used portable, as it is augmented reality, but in a safe and secure location, but not sitting with your computer. Instead, the VIVE Flow is powered by your phone and can be paired over Bluetooth, making it an untethered device.
Well, not exactly. The VIVE Flow is really small and lightweight, especially compared to other similar hardware. Part of this is possible because the headset does not have its own power source, meaning that you'll still need to tether it to an external power supply (like a portable phone charger) to be able to use it. So, why the untethered design from the phone? It's a fair question and one that is not really addressed by the company. The logical suspicion is that, since the headset is supposed to be about health and wellness, every effort to make it lighter can help in that mission.
In addition to being the brain of the experience, your phone also acts as a controller for the headset. You get swipe controls, as well as Wii Remote style control schemes. The long-term question will be whether or not the headset is able to expand beyond that very focused, niche market and into more interesting usage. Apple's AR/VR ambitions seem to be similar to what HTC has released here, but also plans to have it be fully functional, rather than just for serenity and meditation. Hopefully, the VIVE Flow will bring more content to its store, even if the content is music games and the like. We'll see what is available for the platform when it launches.