HP’s VR Headset Reverb Brings Stronger Enterprise Potential at a Consumer Price Point
HP has just released its second virtual reality (VR) headset, known as the HP Reverb. Like its predecessor, the HP Reverb has been designed to work with Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform. That said, the Reverb is not simply an updated version of the 1000-100 (the first HP VR headset). It has been designed with a focus toward enterprise clients, while retaining a price point that will make it a viable option for the consumer market as well.
How Reverb has been Optimized for the Business Sector
During the announcement and promotion of the Reverb, HP has focused on one feature: resolution. It is easy to understand why. The HP Reverb uses high-resolution LCD displays, which produce more pixels than other headsets in a similar price range. The device creates 2,160 x 2,160 pixels per each display. Compare this to the HTC Vive Pro (1,400 x 1,600) or the Oculus Rift S (1,280 x 1,440) and it is clear that HP has raised the bar in this category.
In VR, screen resolution matters because of immersion. Having fewer pixels means that the image will likely have a “screen door effect.” This is caused by the user seeing the unlit or black spaces between the pixels, creating a barrier that separates them from the displays they are interacting with. While the HP Reverb does not mark the creation of a pure, crystal clear VR presentation, it does make it easier to make out details without being distracted.
For instance – if the user has to read and respond to text, they should be able to do so quickly without worrying about blur or difficult reading. This connects directly to three enterprise-related applications that HP has highlighted for the Reverb: training, design, and healthcare. All three benefit from sharper image quality – whether it is seeing a building schematic clearly down to the millimeter or practicing a precise scalpel maneuver in a surgery simulation. HP seems to understand that, in order to be successful in the enterprise space, VR needs to fully meet its needs – including providing a virtual world with a clarity that resembles the physical one.
Figure 1: First Generation VR Resolution vs. HP Reverb Resolution
Image Source: HP
Other enterprise-friendly features include a leather faceplate that can be easily removed and cleaned between uses and a 0.6m cable that can connect the Reverb to a desktop PC or VR backpack setup. Given that HP produces several of these VR backpack products, including the HP Z VR Backpack G1 Workstation, the inclusion of the cable can be seen as a courtesy to clients that already own HP VR hardware. The new design for the HP Reverb also includes headphones, meaning audio is built into the experience (something the first HP VR headset did not have).
The professional edition (PE) of the HP Reverb is currently available for $649 USD.
What Reverb Means for the Consumer Market
That said, the HP Reverb has appeal to the consumer market as well, thanks in large part to the $599 USD price tag for the consumer edition (CE) of the device. The Reverb CE is the same product from a hardware perspective. Users still have access to the same high level of resolution and will still be expected to work with Windows Mixed Reality (although the Reverb can also function with SteamVR – another consumer-focused VR content platform).
The only differences are the exclusion of the connector cable from the packaging and a cloth-based faceplate. This material is machine-washable and allows the user to keep their headset sanitary. While every improvement to the Reverb has been made with the enterprise space in mind, its improvements also present new opportunities for VR enthusiasts and content creators with limited resources.
HP’s decision to release two versions of the Reverb shows its desire to keep every aspect of the market satisfied and will likely result in a larger market share than if they had just committed to a PE model. While the HP Reverb is not the most powerful VR headset on the market, its price point makes it a contender for users and creators serious about the VR medium.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Windows Mixed Reality Platform
The HP Reverb has been created as part of the company’s ongoing partnership with Microsoft to produce hardware for its Windows Mixed Reality platform. As such, this means the Reverb inherits both the positives and negatives of this agreement.
On the positive side, the headset enters a market where designers have been creating content for years. The HP Reverb can also take advantage of room-scale 360 tracking without requiring the user to configure any external sensors beforehand. This is good news for any companies with limited space that want to start using the tool right away. Given that it is a Windows Mixed Reality platform, however, it means the Reverb has been designed with the Windows VR hands controllers.
While functional with six degrees of freedom, the Windows VR controllers have not been well received by critics. Many feel they are unwieldy and less durable than the controller options presented by HTC and Oculus. Road to VR has already reported that, while the Reverb headset is a good quality product, it is held back by these controllers that are not easily tracked and often desynced with the headset should the user’s arms leave the field of view for longer than a few seconds (including the user resting their arms against their sides).
Figure 2: The Windows VR Controllers
Image Source: Microsoft
In addition, the Reverb – in conforming with the Windows Mixed Reality platform – has a fixed interpupillary distance (IPD). This means that the headset may not be the best fit for users with smaller or larger heads, or simply faces that do not meet a pre-conceived design outline. This is a shame since the HP Reverb has been otherwise designed with comfort in mind. It is one of the lightest and easiest to wear headsets currently on the market.
VR is still in its infancy as far as the consumer market is concerned, but the tech is already serving several large industries in the business space. The HP Reverb represents a step forward for both VR and HP in the space. With its second headset, HP shows hope to be a serious manufacturer – one that runs against Oculus, Samsung, and HTC. The Reverb raises the standard on what users can expect in terms of pixel resolution without breaking the bank on price. It is another solid step in the road toward mainstream VR adoption.
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