Tag Archives: Virtual Reality

HTC Vive Flow – Virtual Reality that put Wellbeing at the Forefront

As a person with an avid interest in technology, getting the chance to review a new piece of Virtual Reality kit was very exciting, so when I was invited to review the new HTC Vive Flow a week before their official launch on October 14th, I jumped at the chance!

So on the morning of October 8th, I set off to Dingley Place in London to find out more.

Dingley Place near Old Street
Dingley Place near Old Street

The preview event was hosted at a modern shoot location near Old Street, and it presented as a modern apartment and outside space, which turned out to be an ideal place to experience this new tech.

The location in Dingley Place
The location in Dingley Place

HTC now have been producing cutting edge ‘room scale’ virtual reality headsets since 2015 and have both consumer and professional solutions available in the marketplace.

Vive Flow uses an Android smartphone as the pointer
Vive Flow uses an Android smartphone as the pointer

Typically, VR headsets are quite large and cumbersome and work in conjunction with hand controllers and connect to a reasonably powerful  PC or dedicated console which does most of the legwork, with mainly immersive virtual reality action games. Not something you can readily carry around with you.

Vive Flow - Image Credit: HTC Vive
Vive Flow – Image Credit: HTC Vive

With the launch of the Vive Flow, HTC has turned this whole idea on its head. Rather than focus on 3D action games, instead, HTC has positioned the device primarily in the mindfulness and wellbeing space, with lightweight ‘glasses’ that connect to your Android smartphone (which doubles up as the hand controller).

Vive Flow
Vive Flow

The glasses themselves are very light, coming in at 180g which I was told was the weight of a bar of chocolate. The front of Vive Flow’s lenses has a  mirror finish with a camera hidden behind each lens for motion tracking and a ‘pass-through’ view.

VIVE Flow - image credit HTC Vive
VIVE Flow – image credit HTC Vive

Rather than using a full wraparound design, the Flow fit like standard glasses with speakers built into each arm. The goggles fit very comfortably over the eyes using a soft material, there is also an active cooling system that blows cool air onto your skin when it detects heat increasing.

The Vive Flow uses a very advanced lens system which is one of the reasons why the device is so like, this also allows for diopter adjustment which means many glasses users will be able to use the device without wearing them.

Each lens has a high-resolution display at 3.2k combined (2x 2.1” LCD 1600 x1600 per eye). The displays refresh at 75mhz and have a field of view of 100 degrees. Onboard storage is 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM.

The glasses are designed to be powered via an adapter, they do contain a battery for management purposes rather than completely wire-free use.

I tried 5 different modes of use.

  1. Mindfulness and Chillout Area – I experience the mindfulness side of this technology where I was transported to a beach someone exotic and watch the sunrise, whilst I was gently coached on my breathing and reached a really nice calm place!
  2. Disney+ – Here I was able to experience the full cinematic version of the Disney+ streaming platform and had a chance to watch a segment of Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds. The video quality was exceptional as was the surround sound. It was very impressive!
  3. Pirates – This was a VR pirate game where I had to shoot cannonballs at pirate ships – Lots of fun!
  4. V&A Curious Alice – This was an interactive experience in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was really good fun again, you can find out more here.
  5. Lo-Fi Cafe – I really liked this experience, it was an incredibly immersive and calming experience. I was sitting in a Cafe with a steaming coffee in front of me, music playing on a record player, an open book on the table and a laptop. There were empty tables which I was able to transport over to. I could also surf the internet in a VR browser. I could also draw and write in thin air. Most importantly, I found it really relaxing. Living in a house that can be very very noisy, I really felt I could actually take myself away from the hustle and bustle of life into that virtual cafe and watch the rain running down the window and just relax.

I realised more than anything was that VR has indeed reached a point when the brain can be fooled enough to be calmed into a sense of relaxation wherever you might be. In a workplace, busy home or even on a transatlantic flight. I was very, very impressed.

HTC Vive Flow Working in LoFi
HTC Vive Flow Working in LoFi – Image Credit HTC Vive

The Vive Flow is priced at £499, which is no small amount of money, but comparable with other headsets on the market.

I have a set arriving soon, so expect an in-depth look very shortly!

More information can be found  HERE

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 52 – Google Cardboard and Google I/O 2015

Google Cardboard V1 can be assembled in 6 steps
Google Cardboard V1 can be assembled in 6 steps

This week I talk about Google Cardboard and Google I/O Extended from Adastral Park. The event was the brainchild of Mark Thomas at Coderus, they are situated on the Innovation Martlesham also.

Google I/O Extended are events which enable people to experience the keynotes of I/O in Silicon Valley in their own countries. BT provided some amazing facilities to web cast the event to a large auditorium and Coderus were on hand to demonstrate some amazing Google products such as Chromecast and the Nexus Player. We also enjoyed Google themed cupcakes and sandwiches which were delicious.

After the keynotes were finished, there was a question and answer session hosted by Jim Milne from Innovation Martlesham and featured guest speakers from the tech area to answer questions and queries about the direction that Google is taking and there were some very interesting discussions about the nurturing role we can all take with young people to help encourage a new generation of UK based IT expertise.

For those of us that waited until the very end of the evening, we were very pleasantly surprised to receive our very own Google Cardboard to take away.

Google Cardboard is a VR system developed by Google engineers David Coz and Damien Henry in their 20% time. It was first released at Google I/O 2014 developers conference.

DSCF7619
Google Cardboard

This year, Google have updated ‘Cardboard’ to support phones of up to 6 inches screen size and now it works with the Apple iPhone (but check your screen size is big enough!). Google Cardboard headsets cost about £12 to construct and the plans and specifications are freely available to buy online for about a tenner.

They are very simple to use, you install the Google Cardboard app on your smartphone, then slide it into the back of the ‘device’. There is normally an NFC tag with the headset which automatically identifies itself and tells your phone it is ready to work in ‘3d’.

The two lenses built into Cardboard focus onto the screen on the phone and produces the impression of stereoscopic 3d.

The apps are the real gem in the whole idea and there are hundreds available and most provide and incredibly immersive experience, it’s a fantastic opportunity to try out VR and at a low entry cost it means it’s accessible to everyone with compatible smartphone.

Thanks to Mark Thomas and everyone at Coderus for the evening, it was very interesting. You can find out more about the company by visiting their website here or following them on Twitter here