There’s an HP backpack computer for virtual reality coming, but we just set eyes on the Alienware backpack PC and it looks svelte. Well, as svelte as a computer can be that you wear on your back.
Alienware’s reference design for its backpack PC made an appearance on stage at the PC Gaming Show amid E3 week in Los Angeles. While a backpack PC won’t work for the Oculus Rift because of its tethered cameras, destination-based experiences like Zero Latency in Australia and The Void could take advantage of such a system combined with the HTC Vive.
Enthusiasts and developers can also use such a computer as a new kind of portable PC that can be connect to a Vive for untethered VR and then become a desktop system when portability isn’t important.
The Alienware backpack looks extremely small. How long such a small device can drive a VR experience before running out of battery is a big question. In comparison, the HP backpack is targeted to last an hour and weigh under 10 pounds with backup batteries that let you swap out for a fresh one without turning the machine off. MSI also announced a backpack PC for VR. So with three announced manufacturers, it will be interesting to see if any of them (or other still-unannounced backpack PCs) find a sweet spot between weight, price and convenience.
Pushing the fidelity of PC VR down into a lightweight mobile headset is a top priority for companies like Google and Facebook, but it’s also a monumental technical problem that might not be perfectly solved for several years. In the meantime, early adopting consumers and developers might have to turn to backpack PCs like Alienware’s to unlock cutting-edge VR experiences that won’t tangle you up in any wires but also won’t sacrifice the detail and frame rate you see when using a desktop tower.