The Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset landed at the PreviewLabs office! We let our eager flock of developers loose on the shiny device. Here are some initial thoughts and interesting findings.
The Acer Mixed Reality Headset is a Virtual Reality device, but with ‘inside-out’ tracking.
The Acer headset is pretty cheap for a VR/AR device ($299). It also feels cheap, almost like a retro toy. It’s definitely lighter than it’s competitors, which is a huge plus for a device that you’ll wear on your head for hour-long sessions. The whole setup proces is easy but a little buggy, but once you’re there, the device runs smoothly and is easy to launch.
The nifty thing about this headset is that it uses ‘inside-out’ tracking, which gives you a freedom of movement comparable to VR heavyweights Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but without external tracking stations. This also means that you could walk around anywhere without constraints – if you weren’t tethered to your PC using a HDMI and USB cable. Using a laptop in a backpack could solve this. All together, this is the most impressive side of the device: it’s the first VR device with inside-out tracking.
Mixed Reality is defined as any mix between the real environment and a purely virtual environment. Both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality can thus be called Mixed Reality.
Since Microsoft calls this a ‘mixed reality’ headset, we were hoping it would allow blending the real world with a virtual world, much like the Microsoft HoloLens allows, but then with a larger field of view and the ability to render pixels entirely opaque or to darken the room. However, that’s not what the device does. It’s actually VR headset. If you check the definition of Mixed Reality, you’ll see that it is any mix between the real world and a purely virtual world. So both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality can be seen as Mixed Reality. In this video, Microsoft explains why they call this a mixed reality device.
If you’ve used the HoloLens, the user interface of the main environment with its floating main menu and manipulation of windows that can be opened will feel very familiar to you. In fact, it’s got the exact same UI, but in a virtual environment. Don’t try hand gestures to navigate through menus though, since that won’t work. The easiest way to interact would be the Windows Mixed Reality controllers, which will ship with the Acer headset for an additional $100 by the end of this year.
A summary of our first experience: it’s not exactly a comfortable device (yet), but definitely an interesting alternative for more expensive and less nimble VR devices. We didn’t get a full taste of what’s graphically possible, since there’s still a lack of content and you’ll definitely need those controllers. However, an affordable device like this could open up a new market segment for virtual and mixed reality.