HP Reverb Headset: Making VR Affordable for Business

    A number of big problems, other than content, for VR are that the good headsets are wicked expensive, the affordable headsets are too low quality to use, and while the opportunity has been commercial most of the focus has been on consumer.

    HP intends to change this with their Reverb headset, which as both a commercial and a consumer version though I personally think the commercial version would be fine for both markets. (The only difference is that the commercial version costs around $50 more and it has face pads you can wipe off and disinfect, the consumer version is cloth.  But given kids pass illnesses I’m all for that disinfect thing at home as well.)

    This is also early for VR, which means there are a lot of things that will be changing over the next several years and, particularly in commercial environments, these headsets will get a lot of use making keeping the cost down important.

    VR in Business

    VR is predominantly used for training and in some showrooms.  In this last the automotive market has taken a particular interest in this technology because it allows them to show cars as they would appear without having to have the vehicle on the lot. It has been used in architecture and prototyping in order to get a sense for what the finished product would look like in real life when done.

    This ability to visualize things accurately has saved millions in change order fees and helped assure that finished products meet their full potential.  Focus groups can use the technology to provide more predictive results, and clients that change their minds can do so to their hearts content relatively cheaply before buildings or remodeling projects are even started.

    It is used for remote viewing and for drone flying, this last is in consumer, commercial, and military. VR Drone flying is currently the best way to get the pilot of a Drone to fly it safely at distance while staying focused on the flight. The typical computer screen setup doesn’t isolate the pilot from the things going on around them and a distraction at the wrong time could lead to an expensive crash.

    Movement while using a high quality VR headset has been a tad problematic but HP does have their Backpack PCs and Workstations, which can allow mobility and they showcased a swing arm solution at their event in Barcelona that would be ideal for engineers and graphics artists that wanted to see their work fully rendered in 3D. In this use even animators might find this useful because they could virtually blow the screen up to movie size and look for artifacts that may not be visible on their PC monitor.

    What I think is ironic is that there seems to be a ton more opportunity in business than in the consumer segment largely because firms are willing to commission the content they want, and VR games have mostly sucked.

    HP Reverb

    Into this VR World is where HP Inc. has pushed their VR Reverb headset and it sets a new bar for commercial headsets in terms of value. Costing under $650 in its Pro (commercial) form it has high resolution displays, built in (but removable) headphones, simple setup and it is good enough to use for hours.

    It should take under 10 minutes to set up from the moment you start opening the box (if you don’t run into Bluetooth issues likr I did, but they only added another 10 minutes or so and likely resulted because I have a ton of active blue tooth devices in my office). This uses the Microsoft Mixed Reality interface, which has become far easier over time and is now incredibly simple to use. (I’m not a big believer in instructions and the “manual” that came with this headset would fit on a playing card). Once set up use is straight forward, and any difficulty will likely be more tied to the application than the device.

    One impressive improvement this device has over the prior, more consumer oriented, line of VR headsets using the Microsoft specification (which this also does), is the head strap. Unlike most products that tend to favor a knob to set the head strap tight (generally either too tight or too lose) this uses Velcro and elastic making it far easier to fit, and once fitted, far easier to put on and take off.

    While I’d prefer using my own headphones myself (and can because the HP units are removable) the built-in headphones work fine, and they are relatively easy to match to the user’s ears. They are comfortable too but, especially in noise environments, noise cancelling headphones would be far better.

    Wrapping Up

    I’ve tried a number of VR headsets over the years and while there are better headsets than the HP Reverb, they generally cost several times as much. For those wanting to explore VR, have a customer facing VR experience, or simply want to see what this technology offers the price point and performance make these a compelling consideration. And given how hard people can be on technology like this, having it not cost an arm and a leg makes finding one broken far more tolerable.

    I think the HP Reverb VR Headset sets the new minimum bar for what an adequate solution should be when cost is a major consideration. And when is cost not a major consideration?

    Rob Enderle
    Rob Enderle
    As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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