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Circuit Breaker

MSI’s new VR gaming backpack looks like an angry robot

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MSI VR One

Virtual reality backpack computers are still in that liminal state where we know a lot about the general concept, but few people have actually gotten to try them — or in some cases, even see finished designs and specs. This week, that’s changing for at least one product: MSI’s VR One, which is debuting at the Tokyo Games Show.

The VR One is the final iteration of a design from May, and instead of looking like a rough render of an angry trash bin, it now looks like a much better render of an angry Transformer. Actually, MSI calls it an "armor design" that "highlights power, braveness and mobility," and says that its "muscled shape with aerodynamic outlines create the look of a superhero in the VR world;" elsewhere, it calls it a "futuristic robot machine style." Because even when its promotional site is selling an all-purpose product for test-driving cars, playing chess, and shopping for shoes, the company can’t conceive of a design language that isn’t aimed at reinforcing the fragile machismo of edgy teens. (If the new name sounds familiar, that’s because Zeiss already makes a mobile headset called the VR One.)

MSI VR One

I needed to get that out of the way, because under the shell, it seems like a decent product. The VR One weighs very slightly less than eight pounds, slipping comfortably under the 10-pound threshold that’s considered the upper limit for a VR backpack. Like HP’s prototype backpack, it incorporates two batteries that can be hot-swapped without turning off the headset, providing 90 minutes of gameplay on a charge. It uses an Intel Core i7 processor and a GTX 1070 mobile graphics card, putting it on par with a very good gaming laptop.

Most home VR users probably shouldn’t buy a backpack PC when they go on sale. For one thing, it’s effectively only good with the HTC Vive, since the Oculus Rift requires plugging tracking cameras into your PC. Most people won’t be moving far enough for a headset cable to become more than mildly annoying, and while we don’t know a price for the VR One, it’s almost certainly not cheap. As MSI’s site suggests, though, it’s great for companies that use warehouse-scale VR setups, or that want to set up maximally convenient public VR experiences. So if you plan on buying a car, building a house, or playing games in an arcade, a futuristic robot machine backpack may well be in your future.