Unboxing and first look at the new Microsoft “Mixed Reality” VR headset

Packet39 (my company) was lucky enough to receive a developer kit of the new MS “Mixed Reality” (ie, VR) headset, made by Acer. Here is a quick unboxing and review. Please keep in mind this is a developer model, and things might change before it’s public release.

Mixed Reality or VR?

First thing I want to get out of the way is Microsoft’s baffling decision of calling this headset “Mixed Reality”. It’s not a “Mixed Reality” headset by any means I can think of. It’s a VR headset, nothing more, nothing less. There is no real-world 3D overlay, optically or with the cameras.

EDIT: I just discovered that these new “mixed reality” headsets do not 3D scan or map the environment. They use two sensors to figure out headset movement, and that’s it. Those sensors in the front of the headset are not cameras (although I’m still not clear on what they are exactly) Thus, the “mixed reality” label doesn’t make any sense IMHO.

Unboxing

Nothing exciting or interesting here, the headset came in a very simple package that consisted of the headset itself and a small note. No accessories, bags, mounts or anything else.

 

The Headset

The headset is surprisingly lightweight (380 grams / 0.8 pound) and feels cheaply constructed, which is not surprising because it is cheap ($300 USD). There is no IPD adjustment or focus knob (like on the Vive).

The cable is USB 3.0 and HDMI and is about 3.3m (10f) long. There is no breakout box and it doesn’t require external power (which is nice). The headstrap is a simple loop that goes on the forehead and the back of the head, and is adjustable with “press to slide” kind of locking ratchet. Not very smooth or elegant, but gets the job done. It’s all made of rigid plastic, no fabrics or stretchy materials, with some padding on the forehead. Since the headset is so lightweight it works out ok.

The foam is detachable (velcro) and there is a small IR proximity sensor inside. The headset is hinged and can be flipped up in a somewhat awkward fashion. An audio jack is hidden on the left side, which can be used for wired headphones (not included).

 

Initial setup

I plugged in the headset and windows immediately downloaded and installed the drivers, and launched the “Mixed Reality Portal”. The first step was to enter my height, so the headset can detect the floor. The next step was standing in the middle of the room, then tracing out my play area perimeter, by holding the headset at waist level and walking around the room.

This actually took several attempts. The first one wasn’t good enough (not sure why). The second was too small, which is amusing given the rather short cable. My computer is not directly by my table, and I also have a treadmill desk (yeah, it’s as crazy as it sounds), so I had to move back a bit. Even with the cable fully extended, the biggest area I could trace was too small. I had to move the computer and try again. Unlike with the SteamVR room setup, the boundary doesn’t have to be rectangular.

 

Tracking

The tracking is good. It’s not as good as the SteamVR/Vive lighthouse tracking system, but it’s impressively good for an inside-out tracking system with no external sensors or transmitters. The headset supports full room-scale, 6DOF tracking, with an occasional jitter / flicker when you move your head quickly. Again, the Vive / Rift is better, but this comes very close.

Display

The display is a mixed bag. On the upside, the resolution is higher than the Vive/Rift (1440×1440 pixels vs Vive’s 1080×1200), and it’s noticeable. Sharper image, considerably less screen door affect. However, optically it falls short. The sweet spot is small and the edge smear is very pronounced. Also, it has a distinct “viewing the world through binoculars” feel to it, as you can clearly see a circular edge. It is very hard to capture images or video through the headset, but here are a few. Please do not judge the display quality by these:

EDIT: Interestingly, the lens seems to be a hybrid, smooth on the outside and Fresnel’ed on the inside.

IMG_20170729_184000.jpg

Chaperon

Just like SteamVR, it shows up when you are close to it.

 

Controls / User Interface

The headset will get tracked controllers, but those are not released yet. For now, it’s voice or mouse / keyboard interface and it does that in an interesting way. Here is a video that shows the gist of it, it looks cumbersome but it actually works.. OK (ish). Still, using a keyboard (that I can’t see) and a mouse (that I can’t see) in VR is not my cup of tea.

 

That’s all I have for now, I’m going to dive into the software SDK and write some more about that very soon.

23 thoughts on “Unboxing and first look at the new Microsoft “Mixed Reality” VR headset

  1. Can you go a bit more into detail when it comes to tracking? Also, is the tracking experience notable worse in low light situations (evening with only artificial lighting or even the relative darkness of watching a movie lightning)?

    Motion blur and percieved latency (its a LCD AFAIK)?

    Can it run normal Win32 exe programs or UWP only?

  2. Can you go a bit into detail about the tracking compared to Vive / Rift? Especially will the tracking detoriate in low light situations (artificial lighting in the evening / at night) or even very low light situations (room illuminated by the TV etc.).

    Motion blur and percieved latency (its a LCD as far as I know)?

    Can you run normal Win32 API exe software or is it UWP only?

  3. there is a software ipd adjustment of I think it was +/- 8mm in the settings of the mixed reality port……it’s also mentioned in the specs of the headset online

  4. image.slidesharecdn.com/nlandry-hololens-development-overview-170421154419/95/building-mixed-reality-experiences-for-microsoft-hololens-8-638.jpg?cb=1492789676
    if u look at MS’s explanations they admit that the hololens and these headsets don’t cover the whole mixed reality spectrum ……..and the platform is called Windows Mixed Reality …….so it’s a “mixed reality headset” ……and the cool part is apps for win mr will run on transparent and opaque headsets……so u can run the hololens apps from the ms store on these headsets ….but they will run in the cliff house instead of in your room

    1. Yeah, they run in the cliff house but you can’t interact with most of them because they need the finger pinch thing, which doesn’t work with these headsets.

      1. lol no u don’t “finger pinch” …..the hand gesture acts as a click…..that’s all it is ……and from what I got …..the developer just needs to add just a bit of code to the app and it will just work……just how the edge window works in both the hololens and in the mr portal and u can adjust it and move it only with the hololens u click with your hand and with the portal u use a mouse/controller and 6dof controllers in the future

      2. yep u don’t need to click with your hand ………..your gaze is the pointer and u just click with whatever u have mouse/enter/controller………..and in the future with the button of the 6dof controller which u will see

    2. Yes, but they’re confusing everybody, I have read in some media that this HMD are not VR, that they are something different.

      They should call them VR headsets for the Windows MR Family.

      1. I 100% agree with this. saying these are mixed reality is like referring to jets and single propeller airplanes both as “variable aircraft” neither varies in its design they are both on a spectrum of aircraft. this is not a mixed reality device this is a VR device as part of the microsoft spectrum of VR/AR or “mixed reality”

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