HP Enters Virtual Reality Space, Unveils Portable PC VR Backpack

Colin McMahon
Jun 1, 2016

For those who want to experience virtual reality (VR), there are two options currently available. The first involves using a phone and a headset (the Samsung Gear, Google Cardboard). This option is freeing but limited, as the user is bound by the computing and processing power of their mobile phone. The second involves attaching a wired headset to a PC (the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive). The computing “power” of this option is limited only by the user’s computer. That said, consumers opting for this option will need to forfeit their freedom by tethering their bodies to anchored PCs (breaking the VR immersion by having to constantly be aware of wires). HP plans to offer a third option, one with the power of the PC and the freedom of mobile. This option is called the Omen X VR Pack.

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The Omen X VR Pack is a computer that is designed to be worn on the user’s back. Weighing in at less than ten pounds, the Omen is light enough for the average user, not to mention small and sleek enough to not create mobility problems. The Omen currently supports Intel Core i5 and runs on two batteries that support roughly one hour of power. HP insists that the battery is “hot swappable,” meaning that it can be changed without having to power down the device. The computer can then be hooked up and run with any PC VR headset. HP has yet to disclose the Omen X’s graphics card.

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HP is not the only company developing an untethered PC backpack for VR purposes. PC specialist Zotac unveiled its concept in April. Hardware specialist MSI also recently debuted a VR PC backpack, one that is reported to support the new Nvidia GTX 980 graphics card. That said, MSI has not provided any further details, such as how much the backpack will weigh or how the power source will function.

HP has stressed that the Omen X is not a final product. VP of Consumer PC & Solutions Mike Nash clarified by stating: “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. 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.”

Should this concept prove successful, it is not unreasonable to foresee other companies jumping into this technology. The idea of untethered VR holds much appeal, fixing the problem of being trapped in a room full of furniture. With backpack PCs, users could simply walk to a safe VR space. HP plans to demo the Omen X next month.

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