Virtual reality is definitely cool, but mobility is constrained by the size of your room, those long chords attached to the headset, and the large, powerful PC that is required to run devices such as Facebook’s Oculus and HTC’s Vive. Some crafty engineers have found a way around the problem to allow powerful VR on the go — backpack PCs.
HP this week announced a proof of concept device called the Omen X VR PC Pack, which is a full gaming PC with straps for virtual reality on the go. Batteries only last for about an hour, but there’s a system that allows users to replace batteries without first shutting down the PC.
Gaming PC maker MSI revealed a similar VR backpack for mobility, and computer hardware company Zotac went more low tech and simply shoved one of its own computers in a backpack with a large battery and started playing Vive VR games.
So is this a trend now? Will subway commutes be filled with people immersed in a virtual world waving wands in the air aimlessly? Or maybe that baby crying on the plane is too much to take so you strap on a VR backpack and go to another virtual world for the duration of your flight.
But wait, it’s as if there’s already a device more mobile than a gaming PC? Oh yeah, smartphones.
Samsung’s Gear VR, which simply docks a smartphone as the screen inside the headset, already provides a pretty immersive experience for how new the technology is. Google has already sold 5 million cardboard headsets, and last week announced the launch of its new Daydream mobile VR platform, a new more powerful headset design, and a remote control to interact more immersively in the virtual space.
Granted, these mobile systems aren’t as sophisticated as the power from a PC VR rig. But, that’s no excuse to spend an extravagant amount of money on a computer that can only be used on your back. We don’t know how much these systems will cost yet, but HP says the system can’t really be used for work functions despite coming with a mouse and keyboard for maintenance issues. It seems cool now, but don’t fall for the trap.
It’s never been a good bet to underestimate the advancement of technology. Smartphones might not be capable of the kind of computing power as the Oculus and Vive right now, but in just a couple years time (maybe even this year) smartphones are going to be capable of a lot more interactive experiences. Just be patient.