HTC’s compact VR headset, Vive Flow, launched late last year targeting a different kind of VR user. The company says that feedback since launch has consistently been around two features, both of which it plans to address.

Vive Flow is a compact VR headset targeting casual VR users who want a portable headset for relaxation and productivity. Out of the gate the product got high marks for its diminutive size, but HTC says there were two common themes in the post-launch feedback: a lack of support for iPhone and two-handed input.

Speaking during this week’s AWE 2022, Vive China President Alvin Wang Graylin tells Road to VR that both points are in active development and the company expects to have details to share soon.

Vive Flow isn’t a fully standalone headset; it must be plugged into a smartphone for both battery and input. But not just any smartphone… only Android devices have been supported since launch. For the huge number of iPhone users out there, that makes the device a non-starter, even if Flow’s unique ‘causal’ approach to VR is appealing.

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Graylin said Vive Flow support for iPhone is on the way, though it may not offer the full set of capabilities that are possible when used with Android.

A big part of Vive Flow’s appeal is being able to cast flat apps from your phone into the headset, making the headset a simple personal theater for watching content on Netflix, YouTube, and the like. But if we had to guess, we’d say this capability could be limited when the headset is used with an iOS device, given Apple’s more restrictive approach to interoperability.

Image courtesy HTCViv

As mentioned, Vive Flow also uses the attached phone for input—both as a laser pointer and touchscreen input. But the single-handed and 3DOF nature of the ‘phone-as-a-controller’ leaves something to be desired. Graylin said that some form of two-handed input is in the works.

Two-handed input would not only make users feel a bit more capable in the headset, but could also open up more possibilities for different apps to work on the headset without being reworked for a single controller modality.

There’s a good chance the two-handed input will come in the form of hand-tracking—which HTC has supported on other headsets previously—but it’s possible the company might also surprise us by adding some kind of controller accessory to the headset. However, given the headset’s intention as a simple and portable device, hand-tracking seems to make the most sense.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • xyzs

    If they listened at what customers wanted like BEFORE making it, like providing some standard (not crap wand) controllers instead, they could have sold millions of these for all the VR enthusiasts that just wanted a light and comfortable SteamVR headset. But it’s Vive.

    • Guest

      There is no such thing as standard controllers except hand recognition or gloves…

      • ViRGiN

        Oculus Touch is the standard controller. Anyone making a game, targets this primarily, and often, as the only supported controller, with just keybinding it to other controllers – and often even not that. WMR is notorious for being unsupported out of the box.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          My experience is that the Vive Wand is much better supported in most SteamVR games than the index controllers, these days I’m using the Vive wands more than the Index controllers. I just hate having to reconfigure everything, as it’s also not something you can do easily from within SteamVR, at least I wouldn’t know where to find it.

    • Enzo Gunbritt Brittmariblom

      Yeah especially considering how it have an xr1 processor in it.

      They could make it stream over wifi 5 and 6 like quest does.

      I really doubt they sell many of this. In my assessment there is very few “casual” users even knowing the flow exists.

    • ymo1965

      It’s funny really, I’m still using the Vive (albeit with the lense mod) and it’s still pretty great even after 6 or so years. I agree with xyzs, they NEVER listen to what customers want. Obsessed with business variants and to me seem as though it’s devolution not evolution with them. They are getting worse with their products, not better. The only thing that has remained unchanged is the stupid ass crazy prices.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      One of the main benefits of the Flow it that it folds into a tiny package, making it ultra portable. The current input solution via an Android phone doesn’t really add to that, as you are expected to carry a phone anyway and need it to power the Flow. Adding tracked hand controllers similar to the Quest would pretty much tripple the volume you need to carry, more or less negating the unique selling point of the Flow. You’d end up with an HMD similarly cumbersome to carry as the Quest 2, but at a much higher price, while being slower than the Quest 1. Doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting device.

      I understand why people who are interested in VR gaming would want decent hand tracking controllers, but this device was designed explicitly NOT to compete with the Quest 2, instead it tries to carve its own niche. And for the ultramobile, lifestyle audience they are going for, pretty much only hand tracking makes any sense, even if this means that the Flow will never be usable as a SteamVR headset.

      Considering that all the software income generated from using the Flow as a streaming device would go to Valve anyway, I don’t think HTC was particularly interested in this use case in the first place. A VR streaming option can/will increase sales of an HMD, so it can be worth the loss in software sales even for Meta and most certainly makes sense on the Pico 3 or Focus 3 that already come with all the necessary hardware, but on the Flow you pretty much have to change the whole concept for it to work.

      As for the customers: I’m a HTC customer, and I really liked the Flow except for the extremely limited input. I really love that it is so lightweight and have a special use case for it to demonstrate VR business applications to people who are very uncomfortable with strapping a typical HMD to their face (there are A LOT of these). To this day I still carry a foldable cardboard viewer about 2/3 the size of a pack of cigarettes, and I still use it for spontaneous demonstrations of VR with Owlchemy Labs’ (Job/Vacation Simulator etc.) “Caaaaardboard!” base jumping game, the mobile version of “AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome” that at one time supported DK2 VR. And people are still impressed. I also posted a number of comments along that line about the Flow being a really interesting device if only they added hand tracking.

      … and if HTC manages to sort out the hand tracking by then, I will find a way to justify buying an HTC Flow to finally get a really mobile VR HMD that doesn’t require strapping a brick to your face.

      So maybe HTC is in fact listening to customers, just not the customers that have the same priorities as you.

  • Octogod

    Dear HTC – add 12 more months of development to every product you’ve ever launched.

    Signed, former customer

    • ymo1965

      well said

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