The Omen X by HP VR PC is nothing if not compelling. The company showed off a picture of the concept earlier today and let slip a smattering of details around the backpack PC, but not much else. No press release, no product page. It was a fairly usual announcement for HP.
The hardware company’s VP of Consumer PC & Solutions Mike Nash agreed to shed a bit more light on the upcoming product, which is HP’s attempt to adapt the expanding world of virtual reality through the creation of a rig that cuts the tethers, in hopes of providing a more immersive virtual experience.
“We’re learning a lot about how customers use and perceive VR,” says Nash. “There are two consistent pieces of feedback we’ve gotten. The first is that the demo is incredibly cool, and the second is that the cord is incredibly annoying. But despite all of the demos, nobody has tripped over the cord. We wondered why this was and basically people are aware of the cord the whole time so they don’t trip over it. In some sense it’s kind of limiting the overall VR experience. It feels a little less real.”
The company worked on a few different solutions. Wireless transfer standards couldn’t accommodate the throughput without a notable latency and simply shoving a compatible laptop into a backpack wasn’t an ideal solution. HP eventually hit upon the Omen X concept, a wearable PC.
It’s a similar solution to the one recently shown off by MSI, though HP insists that the timing had less to do with that announcement than its own desire to offer up a working prototype before the unveil. But rather than waiting until the company has a shippable product before announcing, HP opted to show off a prototype in hopes of enlisting developers to help shape the creation of the device.
“At this time we’re showing an initial concept prototype of the product. We’re using these examples to begin engaging with ISVs (independent software vendors), who are going to help us refine the final product,” explains the exec. “So what we bring to market probably will be quite different from what we’re showing today. We’re not announcing a product for sale, but we are looking for a select group of developers to help vet the backpack, provide feedback to us, and see what kind of new experiences they supply to us with this backpack.”
The current prototype weighs in at less than 10 pounds and features a battery that offers an hour of life per charge. And while HP believes this will be enough to offer a reasonable immersive VR experience, the company has also added a belt with hot swappable batteries, letting users switch them in without losing their place in the game and other important data. The system also features two high-output batteries, assuring that the CPU and GPU aren’t throttled — despite the fact that the backpack is intended to operate on battery power alone.
Cooling is accomplished with two large vents, those red wings on the exterior of the machine. HP will also be bundling a wireless display, keyboard and mouse, so users can interact with the system as a standard Windows PC and spectators can watch what’s going on in the VR environment through the monitor.
Beyond that, the company isn’t offering a ton in the way of specifics, because much of the final version is dependent on how the prototype fares — though HP insists it does plan to bring the backpack to market at some point. It will also be showing off the prototype likely in the next month or so and throwing a developer page live in hopes of recruiting interested third parties to help bring the product to fruition.