Zotac VR Backpack Makes Virtual Reality Wireless … But Not Exactly Convenient
Zotac specializes in making small computers, like their Magnus EN980, which packs a lot of powerful hardware into a tiny space. The company has used their proficiency with making compact hardware and applied it to this virtual reality backpack; it’s wireless and battery-powered, so you can explore an open space without having to worry about tripping on any wires.
The promotional video cites the possibility of tripping on wires as the main reason why you’d want one of these, but that justification might not be enough to sell you on it. Wireless VR headsets don’t exist yet, but they will soon. Optoma has been working on a cloud-based wireless VR headset; the reason that other companies haven’t done that yet is because of concerns about lag or reduction in picture quality. Optoma claims their headset doesn’t have these issues, and if that’s true, they could end up competing handily with Sony and Oculus, both of which require the user to remain plugged in at all times. Optoma’s headset won’t launch for another year, so until then, hardware developers have had to come up with some other ways to go wireless with VR.
Zotac’s backpack seems like one possible solution, and it certainly increases the user’s ability to take VR with them on the go. You could take this thing out to an electricity-free cabin in the middle of nowhere, so long as the battery’s charged up. (Also, most people probably go to remote cabins for reasons other than trying out a cool VR headset, but … shhh.)
My main concern with the backpack is its potential weight. The Magnus EN980 weighs 8 pounds, which doesn’t sound like much, until you start leaping around shooting at virtual baddies in your living room. I’ve carried around laptops of comparable weight at conventions before, and let me tell you, you’ll really start to notice it after you’ve been on your feet for a while.
The types of VR experiences in the video above already look pretty aerobic already, and they’d only become harder to do with a backpack on. If the weight of the computer were evenly distributed across the wearer’s torso, then it could work (ever seen a lifter using a weighted vest?). As it is now, though, the weight isn’t distributed evenly, so it seems like the wearer would get tired and possibly even hurt their back, depending on the weight of the computer and also how much space-battling they’re doing. So basically, by eliminating the safety concerns about tripping over wires, we’ve introduced a whole other set of concerns. Yay!
Maybe we should just skip this intermediary step and wait for headsets to go wireless instead. I sure don’t want to trip on anything, but there’s got to be a better solution than carrying a computer with me. Perhaps if I strapped some sort of wireless receiver to my back, that would be more manageable? You can have that one for free, Zotac.
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