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A Vive Flow with keyboard and mouse support could be a personal productivity powerhouse.

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I mentioned this in another thread but I thought it was worth making its own. 

The Vive Flow's biggest strength is how easy it is, compared to other VR headsets, to just pull it out and put it on like a pair of glasses. No straps, which a lot of people with short hair probably don't realize how big a barrier to casual use that can be to some of us. And it's so lightweight and relatively comfortable. 

And it's biggest weakness is... basically everything that was sacrificed to make it that way, which means it's never going to compete as a piece of hardcore gaming hardware. Which is fine as HTC doesn't appear to be marketing it that way, but it doesn't seem like they know how to make it useful for anything else, either.

If it's going to be more than a novelty toy, it needs keyboard support. Are people having virtual meetings supposed to take notes by waving their (5G, processor-heavy) phones around like a magic wand at the cumbersome onscreen keyboard? And meetings aside, HTC came very close to creating the perfect virtual office in a can for the business traveler... except we can't bring a keyboard or mouse with us into the virtual space.

I would love to be able to sync input and pointer devices with the Flow directly using its Bluetooth. The capability is clearly there, unused. But honestly, I've already got the keyboards I would use with it synced with my phone. Is there any reason that the controller app can't simply intercept keyboard input received by the phone the same way it captures screen input and pass it through to the Flow? 

If HTC makes keyboard compatibility happen either way, I will be telling all my writing friends that they could all enjoy a cozy, private writing nook anywhere they happen to be for a one-time price in hardware investment. Overnight I would become the biggest Vive fan and Flow booster imaginable. But until then, it's not much more use to me than a toy. It's fine for watching YouTube videos that I queued up on my account on an actual computer, okay as a private virtual cinema, diverting occasionally as an actual VR device, but I can only use it for work in phone mode, awkwardly switching the controller app on and off depending on if I need to interact with apps on the phone or with the view controls for the Flow, and hoping the Miracast connection remains stable.

At the price tag, I can't give a fulsome recommendation to anyone else based on its moderate entertainment purposes. But as an early adopter, I hope to see its functionality grow. Please let us use keyboards. Even if you can't immediately add pass-through keyboard view or something fancy like that, the touch-typists of the world will still thank you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

What kills me is that the Flow has so much potential to be an incredible productivity and media consumption device.  What I can't seem to figure out though is why I'm so enamored with this device that I can't seem to find a use for!  I was hoping that Samsung Dex on my phone would work with the Flow but it doesn't.  But without keyboard and mouse, what's the point?

Media consumption via Miracast is pretty bad.  A black background would've been a nice start (perhaps Miracast leaves them no option).  And the whole process of re-centering your view is insanely tedious.  When I had a Gear VR, there was an external button that you held down, you positioned yourself, and when you let go you were centered.  Even the Netflix app was optimized with a follow mode that made the screen slowly center itself in whichever direction you were facing.  And that was six years ago!

But the Flow isn't advertised as a media consumption device. And as you pointed out, HTC doesn't seem to know what the Flow is either. I have a feeling we won't see any productivity features though.  With all of the productivity-related enterprise services, the Flow could cannibalize some of HTC's offerings if it were any good at productivity.  I guess one way to avoid this is to nerf the Flow enough that no one buys it 😋.

As for extending the use cases, if you don't already know, there's an app in the Viveport store called VRidge.  The VRidge app connects to a desktop program (called Riftcat) which will let you use your Flow with Steam VR.  A license is required for Riftcat but it installs as trial software with a limit on the streaming time for evaluation.  I use this combination for seated VR games where my input is keyboard and mouse. 

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