What Devs Think

Photo by Road to VR

In my interactions with developers at the conference the response to the Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets seemed largely positive. Most are enthusiastic about not needing to setup any additional outside tracking systems for the headset and are also really happy about the price point. The belief is that if Microsoft can ship a plug & play headset at a ~$300 price point, we’ll be seeing a lot more people entering the VR marketplace this year. I also heard a few people discussing the benefits of the Acer’s minimal cabling. The headset only has one relatively slim wire coming out of it that runs along the right side of the headstrap and then splits into one HDMI and one USB port right before it gets to the PC.

It’s a compelling idea that I might be able to throw an Acer headset in my backpack along with a laptop and head off to work, or to be able to take it easily over to a friend’s house without a lengthy setup. A lot of people at the conference were also discussing the VR controllers that Microsoft just announced for these headsets. It’s currently unknown when the Acer VR headset + controller bundle ($400) will become available beyond “later this year.” At the conference, demos requiring locomotion beyond physical bounds were using an Xbox controller and teleportation.

Photo courtesy Microsoft

The biggest question marks for the Acer headset were mostly around the field of view for the controller tracking, shipping & release dates, and how IPD adjustments are made to the headset.

HoloLens is able to make some adjustments for IPD in-software, so one would assume there’s a similar process for the Acer headset, though if you can’t move the lenses of the Acer headset, you can’t have a truly correct IPD.

Another question that came up was around if the Microsoft VR controllers would be available outside of a bundle purchase. I was able to confirm that they would be sold independently as well, although no word on a date yet for when.

There was also a lot of talk and excitement about how the Windows Mixed Reality headsets will fit into the launch of Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox ‘Project Scorpio’ console, which is slated to arrive at exactly the same time as the consumer MR headsets: ‘holiday 2017’.

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Some questions I had coming out of the conference that have since been answered were around the ability for the controllers to track fully outside of the headset’s forward-facing cameras, as well as questions regarding if they would work across all of the Microsoft partner-headsets, including HoloLens.

I was told that the controllers do indeed use the headset’s forward facing cameras for their primary tracking method but that they also have other sensors, including an IMU, and employ inverse kinematics. If the controllers move outside of the headset’s camera tracking area they will reportedly start to lose confidence in the controller’s exact positions, but can still maintain some degree of confidence using the other sensors and IK methods.

In response to my second question, about whether or not they would work with HoloLens, I was told that the controllers are “platform compatible controllers,” and that this applies across all OEMs. So if you buy one pair of the controllers they should work on any Windows Mixed Reality headset. However somewhat paradoxically I was also told that the controllers are not compatible with HoloLens at this time. It’s possible that this response merely indicates that HoloLens support is not ready currently but is planned for the future since HoloLens is a major part of the Windows Mixed Reality platform. We’ll have to wait and see.

Take Aways

Photo by Road to VR

For $300 the quality of the Acer VR headset’s overall user experience holds its own against much more expensive systems, with the obvious caveat of not yet having tracked input or controllers. In my mind the question should be: does this headset provide a good experience for this price or not? I think it does. Comparing this headset directly to something significantly more expensive like the Rift or the Vive is just unfair. Sure it’s going to have its downsides and make sacrifices on quality, but to provide an entry-level PC VR experience at this price point, at the quality I saw, seems like a victory for everyone cheering for a future with more VR in it. I’m excited to see how the final consumer version of the Acer and other Microsoft partner headsets turns out, and whether or not they’ll have the content to back them up.

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  • J.C.

    Glad to see that these aren’t as bad as I’d assumed. The “controller doesn’t track particularly well outside of the camera view” may be an issue in some games that assume the controllers are very precise at all times.

    It says there’s no support for SteamVR? So we’re looking at an EVEN MORE fragmented user base? Oh yes, that’s ABSOLUTELY the best way to go about it, make sure they can’t play with their friends.

    • PrymeFactor

      Are there really any games that assume precision for controllers outside your natural view?

      • J.C.

        Space pirate trainer, Arizona Sunshine, Raw Data, off the top of my head. Unless you expect people to look to their hips each time they reach for a clip, or somehow behind their head between the shoulderblades.

        I suppose if you watch your hands at all times it’s not a problem. Well, except for the shield in SPT, but I suppose the vague sense of place the controllers have could work for that. Is that reliable enough to not get you killed?

        I do realize that at $400 for the kit, having hand tracking and a decent headset is already a good deal. Trying to NOT compare it to the externally tracked (and much more expensive) headsets, but it’s hard.

      • KUKWES

        Yeah I don’t see open vr working well with this and devs will need to update games for official support.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Well, no SteamVR no go for a lot of people.. I do think it will get SteamVR support very soon (let’s not forget, valve is the one who mainly implements the SteamVR support for headsets, as it’s in their interest these headsets are supported, so more people will buy games from their steam platform).

    • Kuri

      I imagine it’ll get Steam VR pretty damn shortly.

      • Meow Smith

        Amen, if the Chinese Pi Max VR headset can get Steam VR support Acer sure as hell can do it too.

  • David Byres

    How do these compare to PSVR? Resembles PSVR, minus the quality details (e.g. OLED display)?

    • PrymeFactor

      Probably have better tracking than the PSVR, plus the added advantage of requiring minimal cabling and much less calibration. Higher res screens too.

      Downside is the LCD screen vs OLED.

    • ImperialDynamics

      too early to tell. The developer story is unclear at this point. What i mean by that is will these headset be able to take advantage of powerful GPUs? The minimum requirement is just integrated Intel graphics, however i don’t think the experience will be exactly the same on a GTX1080Ti. If it varies by hardware (this is a big if currently) then it might result in significantly better VR than the PSVR on gaming PCs.

  • Xron

    Hmzz… wtf is wrong with min specs? can’t be true, right? super low req for 1440p?… something is really wrong with these numbers.

    • benz145

      Microsoft has been touting that these headsets would work on low spec machines, but we’re likely to see very simple graphics inside.

      • ImperialDynamics

        that is an unfair oversimplification that does not do justice to Microsoft’s huge experience.
        My understanding is that the “game” will load different assets depending on hardware. Basically the same thing that they are doing with Project Scorpio. The same game loads 720p/1080p assets on the Xbox One and 4K assets on Scorpio.

    • ImperialDynamics

      perhaps due to the smaller field of view? Or perhaps some optimizations? (Microsoft unlike Oculus and HTC are also behind the OS that powers it)

  • If the headset had four cameras, one front, one back, and one on either side, then you would be able to much better track the controllers even if the player moved them from the primary position in front of the headset. It still wouldn’t be perfect for when the player moves the controller really high or low but it would be a much better solution than just a camera on the front of the headset. They could even add another camera on top of the headset for the times the player raises the controllers directly above their head. Don’t know how they could effectively always track the controllers if the player is holding them down really low though, but overall I think the multi-camera solution is the best approach for an inside-out tracking setup that uses the camera method.

  • Good-enough experience for small price. For smartphones it is working: good enough cheap chinese smartphones are gaining market shares very fast.

  • RationalThought

    Looking at that top picture I really appreciate the elegance of the Oculus solution. Honestly I just wish Oculus had gone with the Vive Tracking system…..other than that I still think its the best overall design. The integrated and pretty awesome sound seems minor but just LOOK at that first picture…….it’s pretty major reduction in weight and bulk.

  • Buddydudeguy

    This will embarass PC VR. What a piece of crap. Min req is Intel HD hahahaha

    • David Herrington

      At this point, I would rather be embarrassed and increase adoption and momentum than let VR die out in an elitist mindset.

    • Kuri

      Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good kiddo. VR either needs to become more affordable or it’ll die out.

      • Buddydudeguy

        “kiddo”? ok thar. Way to be willfully asnine. And I stand by what I said. This will embarrass PC VR.

        • KUKWES

          Why would this embarrass pc vr.

          • Buddydudeguy

            Not sure if serious. Noobs will be trying “VR” with Intel HD for crying out loud. Ya, that’s gonna do VR favors when people go well this is awful”.

  • David Herrington

    I understand the view on how this isn’t as good as Vive or Rift, but the 2 takeaways should be COST and capability. This new entry (backed by Microsoft) gives decent visuals and most importantly decreases cost. This will get steam support soon as some have suggested and should put pressure on HMD makers to lower prices, which is arguably the biggest hindrance to VR adoption.

  • Sponge Bob

    not sure about the value of inside-out headset tracking on tethered devices…
    seems pretty useless to me

    • PrymeFactor

      I think i know the value of a single cable vs a plethora of cabling.

    • Nick_Abby

      could also see an easier move to wireless

    • ImperialDynamics

      you can take the headset with your laptop. Say you go on vacation, or to a friend’s house.
      Plus it makes the product more affordable. Plus easier setup.

    • Fear Monkey

      Makes setup much easier and compact.

  • Ted Joseph

    I have owned (now sold Vive and PSVR, kept the Rift) all three VR headsets. I am currently playing Wilsons Heart, Rec Room, and Arizona Sunshine. I actually was extremely happy to see that Microsoft is going to step into the VR realm. Why? Because it drives competition against Rift, Vive, and PSVR. This means they need to step up their AAA game library. Currently, the only games that actually feel like full games are few and far between. I still play Arizona Sunshine with a friend (co-op) online for the past 4 months as no other similar experience is out. Microsoft will help push this along in my opinion.

    • ImperialDynamics

      Why did you sell the Vive and not the Rift? (I’m not taking sides, in fact i’m more of Rift type myself just curious about your experience)

  • Kuri

    If this thing is set up to work with Steam VR and maybe Occulus out of the box then it’ll easily be a day one purchase for me provided I have the funds and have my PC upgraded by then.

  • Armando Tavares

    Funny to watch fanboys and people/companies that have money tied up into Oculus/VIVE, squirming in every news regarding these devices.

    I still remember all the: «These wont be suited for gaming»…«wont have inside out tracking…»…«inside out tracking wont work properly», etc, etc, etc

    Even the article goes out of it’s the way to point out ‘flaws’ with the device: The cable lengh (12/13 feet), for example, apparently isn’t enough… even though it’s the same legth as the Oculus cable… wich, I suppose, is. Right?
    And the 3.5 jack port isn’t placed right for people that have big hands….
    Because it’s light (wich is usually a GOOD thing) and doesn’t weight 10 pounds, it feels ‘odd’. Really??? LOL…. nitpicking at it’s best.

    Fun stuff to watch. Carry on boys and girls… *get’s popcorn*

  • Devu

    All good and fine but absolutely nothing about AR. Does it handle AR? This would be the deal breaker. I was trying to get some info about that. Can image from cameras can be feed back to the device?

  • Frankie Dingleberry

    I’m excited for this, I really hope it does do well. My Gear VR I believe has the same 95 fov, which if it’s the same, I’m fine with. Here in Canada, the Rift is 649$ + tax, and the Vive is 999 + tax. This headset should be around 399 then. I could literally save up and get it in a month. I have a good RX480 and R5 1600 PC, I pass all tests, so it should be okay :)

  • Great article. $300 bucks, yes. I’ve held back for over a year on the $3000 HoloLens because it broke my budget.