When the current generation of premium VR products began to roll out, one of their major limitations was the need to be tethered to a high-end computer in order to make any of it work. It didn’t take long for companies to start experimenting with “stand up” experiences such as that offered by the Vive, yet wires have still been a part of the deal.
Recently there have been some experiments with wireless display technology which looks very promising. The latencies are low, but you still need line of sight and close range to the main computer.
In this world of VR-ready laptops, why not just strap the computer itself to your body? Why not indeed and that’s exactly what HP have done with their Z VR Backpack
Back(pack) to the Future
The basic design of this system comes in three main parts. There’s the computer itself, which is housed in a flat case, a backpack harness onto which it mounts and then a docking station that houses you can place it in during normal computer use.
The idea is that you can use it as a workstation PC, hooked up to a screen, mouse and keyboard. When it’s time to do your VR thing just stick it on the backpack harness and you’re ready to go.
This isn’t the first VR backpack of course, but one of the things that makes this particular model special is the high-end nature of its construction and of its. HP is aiming this product at professional training and military applications.
If you look at the specifications HP have gifted this strange new computer with, you have to admit that they aren’t kidding.
Obviously, since this is a PC, there are different configurations, but what you will get is an i7 laptop processor, 32GB of RAM and a Quadro P5200 GPU. There’s also a ton of ports, so this should be compatible with every peripheral or VR gadget you’d care to hook up to it. Presumably professional clients are likely to create their own addons, so that’s a good approach.
You might also be wondering what the deal is with the power, since this is a battery-powered system. Premium VR is quite the power hog, but you don’t need to interrupt anything. The Z VR uses a dual-battery system where you can hot-swap the packs. In other words, you can charge one battery while using the system and change them out without powering down.
Big Spenders Only
If you want one of these backpack VR systems you’ll have to part with at least $3299 and that’s before you even stump up the cash for a VR HMD, but if you do you’ll have the closest thing to a fully mobile, full-fat VR experience.
While standalone VR headsets with more pep in their step are starting to turn up, they don’t hold a candle to the types of simulations that systems like this will be able to run. Things can only get lighter, faster and most importantly cheaper from here on.