As virtual reality begins to appeal to a larger crowd of individuals and headsets begin shipping worldwide, one inhibiting factor of the technology are the compatibility requirements for using the headsets with a PC. Many individuals are being forced to either upgrade their old PCs or buy entirely new PCs, often times for more than $900, in order to be able to use either the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. While this is no problem if you are made of gold, spending $900 plus an additional $500 to $800 for a VR headset certainly isn’t something many gamers can afford to do.
Certainly as component prices drop and the PC market is invigorated, prices for VR-compatible computers likely will fall as well, but how long do we all have to wait? Perhaps not too long at all, if hints that HP is about to launch a VR-ready Chromebook are any indication of things to come. Back in October of last year a new board, code-named, ‘Chell’ was unveiled. Immediately, speculation pointed towards the board being used in the next Google-branded Chromebook Pixel, but in fact this board seems to have been produced by HP; at least according to developers at the Chromium forum. While this is news in itself, some of the leaked specifications, as well as indications within the commit log, point to the board coming with virtual reality support. Here is the snippet from the log that we are talking about:
“chell: Add VR config settings Use the Kunimitsu settings as baseline, except Psi4 Enable set to 0 due to a known issue (not able to hit S0ix) on glados. The VR settings will then need to be updated per the board VR design. BRANCH=none BUG=chrome-os-partner:48466 TEST=Build and booted chell”
We do know that the Chell board features 16GB RAM as well as a skyline processor, the successor to the Broadwell architecture, and would support both a touchscreen as well as USB-C ports. Likely it will be used within a Chromebook device that will be produced by HP themselves. What we don’t know is what kind of graphics card will come within this Chromebook. This will be a very important factor in determining if the device could actually support the Rift or Vive headsets.
Is it possible that an affordable Chromebook could actually be able to be used to power the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive? With Chromebooks usually priced in a sub $450 range, this could be a key component to widespread adoption of both the Vive and Rift prior to Sony launching their PS VR headset for $399 come October. We likely will only need to wait another month for Google I/O 2016 on May 18-20 to find out. What do you think such a Chromebook could ultimately mean for the VR headset space? Let us know your thoughts in the HP VR-Compatible Chromebook forum on VRTalk.com.