Besides finding a powerful enough computer, buying an expensive VR headset , and setting up sensors or base stations, playing virtual-reality PC games also means a serious chance of tripping over the dangling wires that tether the headset to its bulky desktop PC base.
HP is one of several companies working on a solution to that problem, via a VR backpack that lets you bring the entire computer with you, battery power and all. Dell, MSI and other PC makers are working on similar configurations.
Having seen it previously only in photo mockups, we've now had a chance to experience the HP Omen X VR PC in person, during a public HP gaming event held in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The device is best described as a portable gaming desktop, reconfigured as a wearable backpack.
The VR headset is still tethered to the computer, but in this case, the computer is strapped to your back, so it moves with you. This is primarily designed for use with the HTC Vive, but the Oculus Rift should work just as well, especially when the Rift adds motion controllers later this year.
The unit we tried was not connected to a working VR headset, but the components inside the backpack were complete, so it gave a good sense of the final product's weight and size. The backpack PC is surprisingly small in person, and weighs around 10 pounds. The massive backpack straps and bulky battery pockets make it feel more unwieldy than just the PC itself, but when also wearing a Vive headset, it's just one more thing strapped to you, so I could see this being a very usable way to play VR games.
For power, the current prototype uses a battery belt pack that contains two batteries and connects to the backpack via a cable. The estimated play time on a full charge is about one hour, but VR is meant to be played in short bursts. The batteries are hot-swappable, so you'll be able to keep the system going while swapping one of the batteries out for a fresh one, but I also can't imagine staying strapped into all that equipment for more than an hour at a time.
But before you get too excited about untethered virtual reality, keep in mind this is still a proof-of-concept prototype, and may or may not ever become a shipping product.