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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Backpack VR is here and it’s real this time

XMG-WALKER
Backpack VR is here and it’s real this time

Back at the Game Developer’s Conference this year, I interviewed a developer who offhandedly mentioned that someone had a VR headset strapped to their face on the plane ride over. “You know you’re on your way to the Game Developer’s Conference when someone’s using VR on the plane,” he joked. The headset was likely a mere Samsung Gear VR, for mobile phones, since lugging a laptop outfitted for VR is mostly unlikely. Nonetheless, portable and cordless VR is the way of the future, and the logical next step for the currently wire-inhibited technology. We’ve written in the past about people making their own clunky-DIY iterations for portable VR-ready kits, yet none are of the publicly usable variety. Until now.

pesky, intrusive cords break the immersion of VR

At this year’s Berlin-hosted IFA (an annual European trade show for electronics), gaming computer company XMG unveiled the first commercially available backpack PC designed specifically for VR: the XMG WALKER. The XMG WALKER is, as expected, shaped like a backpack. It’s surprisingly light too—weighing in at around 8.4 pounds. While not completely cordless for VR (wirelessly connected headset support for the HTC Vive is possible, but it results in poor image quality), the backpack does get rid of the tricky PC wires that block one’s path in a properly room-scaled space. Where tripping over cords was once a reality when testing out the Vive, the XMG WALKER hopes to remedy that.

“The connected cables restrict the freedom of movement,” writes XMG on the product’s description. “And there is always the danger of falling over the cable or damaging the computer powering it.” This tepid hazard is true, at least in my experiences. Whether in an acquaintance’s home or a press demo of sorts for the Vive, I’ve found myself halted at a point by someone watching from The Outside. They nonchalantly warn me via a nudge about a trip-worthy wire in my path, and I carefully avoid it. In a lot of ways, pesky, intrusive cords break the immersion of VR.

The XMG WALKER comes equipped with two 99.36Wh Lithium-Ion batteries, lasting approximately 40 to 60 minutes while running.
The XMG WALKER comes equipped with two 99.36Wh Lithium-Ion batteries, lasting approximately 40 to 60 minutes while running.

Living in the tech bubble that is San Francisco, it probably won’t be too long before I see a XMG WALKER in the wild. I could be catching a bus to somewhere in a distant neighborhood, and see a XMG WALKER-enabled techie using the Vive while waiting for a $40 Uber. I’ll scoff maybe, but secretly wish that I too could be in VR at all times. Even on the street. On a bus. In an overpriced Uber. Hey, maybe even on a plane. Wherever life takes me next.

Purchase the XMG WALKER here for the price of €4,799/$5399.83. You know, chump change.

Versions is brought to you by Nod Labs,
Precision wireless controllers for your virtual, augmented and actual reality.
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