Microsoft Motion Controllers – Unboxing and first look

Hooray, I just got my Microsoft Motion Controllers, to pair with my Acer “MixedReality” headset (which can’t actually do MR in any way). See my review here and here.

So, Are they any good?

Short Answer

Tracking is superb. Build quality is horrible.

Long Answer

I received two controllers in a plain cardboard box devoid or any marking, text or symbols.

IMG_20171010_152013.jpg

The box contains two controllers and two pairs of AA batteries, and nothing else.
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Put in the batteries, hold the Windows button to turn on, and pesto. The first surprise. It uses white visible light LED. For some reason I thought these would be IR.

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Moving on to the software, running Mixed Reality Portal greeted me with this screen:

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After a bit of digging around I found that the battery compartment hides a secret button, holding it down for a few seconds puts in the controller into pairing mode. You’ll need a Bluetooth capable computer (dongle not included). What isn’t documented anywhere is that the pass code is 0000. Yeah, I guessed it. On my third attempt.

IMG_20171010_153436.jpg

The Good Part

The tracking is surprisingly good. It’s really spot-on, HTC vive quality, as long as the controller is within view of the headset cameras. The FOV is 180 degrees horizontal but only about 100 degrees vertical. In fact, when moving up, the controller will sometimes lose tracking while it’s still in the headset virtual view (because the cameras are tilted down).

When the controller is outside the camera view, it will freeze in position but will still track orientation.

There is a slight lag in this video, but that lag is only in the screen display. The headset view is lag-free.

 

The Bad Part

The build quality is.. how to put it gently.. cheap-plasticy-chinese-knockoff kind of quality. Here, watch this:

 

Trigger: It’s binary but offers no click, no resistance, no feedback when you press it. It feels like a $5 RC car controller

Touchpad: Up, down, left and right all have a different “clickiness” to them. Different sound, different feel, different pressure required to trigger. UP is very “clicky”, DOWN barely registers.

Thumb stick: Movement is OK, but also has a cheap feel to it. Clicking on it generates this nasty grinding sensation (clearly audible in the video). Both of my controllers exhibit this problem, but one is much more pronounced than the other. It really is horrible.

Buttons: The main “windows” button and the side button are both fine, but the smaller menu button doesn’t register any click sensation or noise. It also doesn’t do anything in the Mixed Reality Portal. I’m not sure if it’s just broken (on both controllers), or if it’s designed to be a “silent” button, or what. Actually, I don’t care. It’s terrible as well.

Conclusion

I was genuinely surprised how well the controllers track in space, and the headset tracking has also improved since I last tried it. It seems the latest Windows update has refined the tracking algorithms. When moving the controller sideways and down you can to reach pretty far before it loses tracking. Moving it up is problematic, as it goes out of camera view before it even leaves your virtual view.

The build quality is well below the standard I was expecting, and on par with cheap knockoff XBOX controllers.

About the author

Shachar “Vice” Weis is a software developer freelancer and the CTO / Founder of Packet39.com, a software house that builds custom VR applications for the manufacturing and power industry.

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