Test: HTC Vive Flow – VR glasses for mobile

Depending on who you ask today, VR could be either stone dead or the next big revolution that is about to explode. We saw a lot of VR a couple of years ago in the mobile world, mainly from Samsung with Gear VR, but the investment where the phone was used as a high-resolution VR screen in the headset is now on ice.

HTC Vive Flow is different in several ways. Here, the screens are instead integrated in the headset and you use your mobile phone, must be an Android, only as a remote control. This is thus a simpler model compared to the heavier, more expensive, more advanced devices with separate hand controls and which are connected to a computer with fairly heavy demands on performance and graphics.

This headset therefore has a completely different approach. It has a simple spectacle design, ie scales instead of straps you tighten around the head. Still, they shield well so that sound does not get in and fit as well as ergonomics are good. If you only look at the glasses themselves, they are successful. However, this does not make them comfortable to use. I notice pretty quickly that I get tired in the eyes. Looking at a screen at only a few centimeters distance may not be optimal, but above all I think the fan affects. On the one hand, it sounds obvious, but it also feels like it blows easily into the eyes so that it in itself makes me tired and dry in the eyes.

Getting started with the headset is pretty easy anyway. I download the Vive app to the phone and from there I then connect to the headset via bluetooth. First I try to use the phone as a power source and connect the USB cable from the glasses to the phone, but it is not enough. The headset complains about just that, so you are referred to a powerbank if you do not have access to a charger and wall socket. However, there is a small battery reserve in the headset, so you can change the power source without having to restart the entire device.

You navigate the VR world using your phone. It then functions as a remote control where the phone screen is a touchpad with several virtual buttons and the ability to point like a laser pointer. The phone you hold in your hand is thus visible in the vr world. You can see how in the picture next to it. Precision in the pointer can be a bit fluttery, but if you make an effort, you can point correctly, especially if you use two hands.

You therefore use the intended laser pointer to point in the interface at clickable buttons and then confirm your choices. It works helpful, not super flexible but acceptable. Of course, it becomes especially inflexible when I have to enter text on the virtual keyboard, which when needed appears in the vr world.

Surf the web on a movie screen

When I start the headset and get started, I am greeted by a home screen that floats around in a 360-degree world. Here are the latest apps I used, including a VR version of the Firefox browser, so you can surf and see the pages on something that looks like a large screen and here is also a selection of short vr movies in 360 degrees so you can look around. There is also an app store with a few free apps and more that cost money to download. I count about 80 apps available in total and 150 games. There is a limited selection and not everyone feels like they add so much uniqueness. It becomes clear that VR is still not a mature technology after all these years.

All discontinued VR investments as well as the expectations of Metaverse reflect the expectations of those who try Vive Flow and when I bring the headset so that the group of friends can try for the first time, it is a completely disappointed exclamation. “How can it be so bad?”, “This is the worst I’ve been through” and “yes you get tired quickly in the eyes, the fan blows in them all the time”.

It is very difficult to see in which situations you should actually use Vive Flow to benefit, or enjoy, from it. The app range is a limitation, but you can also choose to mirror the phone’s screen to the glasses, which means that you can have the entire app range available there. I try to watch a TV series in my glasses and then have to zoom so that the picture is what I think is big enough. If it is too big, it will not fit in the field of view, if it is too small, you will lose the advantage of looking directly at the mobile phone. I think that the speakers are in the smallest team when I look and above all it becomes clear that the experience as a whole does not convince even then. I much prefer to watch my regular TV which is a few meters away and it is only in an emergency if I did not have a screen that I would even consider using the glasses. It could be on longer trips, but even then it’s not easy because I’m partly referred to already downloaded material and also dependent on having electricity connected to both the phone and the headset.

As if this were not bad enough, there is also an antisocial aspect to the use that also limits it. You are shielded with a vr headset in several ways. You become more or less completely uncontactable and even if you are alone and want to eat some popcorn or drink something with the film, it will be difficult.

VR as a concept, regardless of whether you call it just VR or metaverse, has a long way to go before it is useful. If it ever gets there.

Source: Mobil by www.mobil.se.

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