At CES 2018 last week, Lenovo revealed the Mirage Solo, the company’s standalone Daydream headset. The new device has everything on-board, including inside-out positional tracking, which means it doesn’t rely on a smartphone or external computer to drive the VR experience. There’s many benefits of standalone headsets compared to smartphone shell headsets, but the Mirage Solo’s price point seems to position it in an awkward in-between segment.

Strong Fundamentals

The Lenovo Mirage is based on Google’s standalone Daydream reference design which we first saw last year. The headset, which is to be priced “under $400,” of course runs a restricted version of Android which directly presents the Daydream VR content store/ecosystem to the wearer (you can’t run any standard Android phone/tablet apps on the headset).

A Step Up

Photo by Road to VR

Coming from the Daydream shell headsets, the Lenovo Mirage is a step up in most regards. The optics offer a notably wider field of view, which Lenovo claims is 110 degrees (which would roughly match headsets like the PSVR, Rift, and Vive, if true). The resolution is 2,560 × 1,440, which matches the resolution you’d expect from Gear VR and most other Daydream Ready phones (single display, no IPD adjustment).

Because it’s standalone, not only will it not kill the battery life on your own phone while in use, but the battery can be made larger than what’s in a phone in the first place; Lenovo is targeting an ample seven hours of battery life for the Mirage, and we hope that they’ve been able to use all the extra space to design enough thermal dissipation that users will never again have to worry about overheating (which significantly reduces performance).

Unlike the Daydream shell headsets though, the Mirage Solo crucially adds inside-out positional tracking thanks to a pair of front-facing cameras which allows the headset to track its position while moving through 3D space. This makes the headset much more like high-end tethered headsets, however, the controller itself is still rotational-only tracking; it’s effectively paired to your head position, so it gets a bit of pseudo-positional tracking, but not the real deal.

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Tipping the Scales

The Mirage Solo is quite heavy at 645g (1.42 pounds), for comparison: PSVR is 610g, Vive is 470g (555g at launch), and Rift is 470g. The ‘halo’ style strap has been proven to be fairly comfortable on the PSVR and other headsets, however Lenovo seems to have made almost no effort to counterbalance the weight by moving some of it to the back of the headband. It was comfortable enough in my 20 minutes using it, but long-term comfort remains to be seen.

Display & Lenses

Photo by Road to VR

Looking through the lenses, the clarity was quite good. As expected for an LCD display, there was almost no mura (color and brightness inconsistency between pixels), which helps a lot with clarity. The screen door effect was minimal and can be a little more or less apparent depending upon certain colors and brightness levels (darker hides it more, brighter tends to show it more). The lenses are indeed Fresnel, and the usual god rays are very apparent in high-contrast scenes. Despite the 75Hz refresh rate and LCD display, I couldn’t spot any ghosting/smearing. I also didn’t notice any flickering (which becomes more apparent with lower refresh rates than higher ones), though there’s a range of flicker sensitivity from one user to the next so your mileage may vary if you are particularly sensitive.

Clarity vs. Rendering Capability

Overall clarity is quite good, potentially class-leading among mobile headsets. The bottleneck to visual fidelity in this case may actually fall more on the rendering horsepower contained in the headset than on any optical or display parameter. High resolution rendering with heavy anti-aliasing is computationally expensive, and it must be used much more sparingly than what’s possible on tethered headsets.

Many of the experiences I tried on the Mirage would have looked significantly better if they had the budget for more anti-aliasing. That’s not to say that things looked bad through the headset, they actually looked quite good, but the graphics and limited anti-aliasing make for a distinct ‘mobile’ look. This means that visual fidelity is likely to range depending upon how skilled developers are when it comes to optimizing their applications to be capable of rendering at native resolution and with effective anti-aliasing, with the best looking titles still falling short of the type of AAA visuals possible on tethered headsets. Though to be fair, the same rule about developer optimization skill applies on tethered headsets as well.

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Positional Tracking

The Mirage Solo’s inside-out positional tracking is the same WorldSense tracking that Google introduced for these standalone headsets last year. Using the on-board cameras, the headset is able to accurately derive its own position by observing the world around it (it doesn’t seem that the cameras will be usable for pass-through video). In my short initial experience with the headset, the tracking was entirely competent and I quickly felt comfortable enough to physically move around, taking several steps in either direction.

I didn’t spot any overt latency, but the positional tracking at a very fine level felt a little ‘sticky’, as in—when I kept my head still and then began moving it slowly, it would take just a moment before my virtual view started moving. It feels like this could be the result of tuning to reduce jitter (subtle, static jumpiness caused by the system’s inherent imprecision). It feels subtle enough that the majority of users won’t notice it, especially during typical gameplay (which is a little different from me staring at the floor trying to suss out the intricacies of the tracking system!). It remains to be seen how the system will handle particularly challenging tracking scenarios, like when surrounded by mirrors, windows, and direct sunlight.

The space where I was testing the headset was only about 8 × 8 feet (2.4 × 2.4 meters), and when I stepped a few feet away from the place that I set as the ‘center’, the view faded to black and told me to move toward the center location. For now, there’s no explicit boundary system that would allow you to trace a safe playspace within a room, only the ‘fade out’ feature. Lenovo didn’t mention whether or not the fade out distance would be configurable, but hopefully there will be some options made available at launch, as WorldSense is theoretically capable of tracking very large playspaces. Without a configurable boundary, the headset may be more difficult to use comfortably in smaller playspaces.

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T-Rex Simulator 2018

Photo by Road to VR

One caveat to the otherwise quite good positional tracking is that the controller itself does not have positional tracking. It only has rotation sensors. Like other Daydream headsets, the controller is thus essentially fixed to your head position, and the rotation is used as input to move a pseudo-arm that rotates from a fixed point. While this feels like an ok compromise for mobile, seated VR (where the controller is primarily used as a pointing device) when you are using it standing up with positional tracking it feels like your arm is superglued to your torso down to your elbow, and you can only articulate your forearm from your elbow joint—that is to say… it feels weird.

What this means in practice is that if there’s a virtual object sitting on a desk in front of you, but your hand isn’t close enough to it, so you can’t simply reach your hand forward like you would in real life (or with other VR systems) in order to grab the object. You’d actually need to move your entire body forward to get your hand closer to the object. This could make for a great T-rex Simulator 2018 game, but it might otherwise relegate the controller to mostly pointing-oriented functions. If that’s the case, it means that the headset’s own 6DOF capabilities become less useful, since the application design is in many ways limited to what the hand-input is capable of.

Continued on Page 2: Questionable Pricing »

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • dk

    it’s snapdragon 835…..the price is actually really decent

    • Jackie

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  • Ldj

    Impressed by what they could reach with LCD screens. More details about the technology behind?

  • gothicvillas

    “the graphics and limited anti-aliasing make for a distinct ‘mobile’ look” – stopped reading here. Mobile VR is a bit of poop currently.

  • silvaring

    What really confuses me about standalones is that there isn’t a cheap 3DOF headset that works out the box with some kind of integrated leap motion style hand tracking. It doesn’t have to even be super precise with individual finger tracking or anything it just needs to be good enough for waving / clenched fists etc. Seems to me that this kind of interface would feel a lot more natural than these 3DOF hip controllers.

    • daveinpublic

      Would probably cost the hardware makers less, too, because you don’t need to include the extra controllers. But, the problem may be that the finger tracking software isn’t good enough. You may have to keep your fingers within a window of space. And it could be janky.

    • Sponge Bob

      Leap Motion requires lots of CPU/GPU cycles to track fingers
      This is on top of rendering VR
      Controllers don’t require much computation

    • dk

      qualcomm had leap motion integrated in their reference design and apparently it was working pretty well…..but for various reasons for right now interaction with the 3dof controller will be fine

      • Sponge Bob

        “fine” means useless ?

        • dk

          no it was more or less great ….just google it people were saying it was working great and that sensor was meant for mobile systems as far as having low power requirements and wider fov
          ….also leap motion tracking in general is super close to perfect after the orion software update

          • Sponge Bob

            hand and finger tracking will never replace hand-held or hand-attached controller
            similar to touch screen never replacing good old mouse for productivity applications

          • dk

            and mouse will never replace touchscreen on hand held devices :P … what
            this is not a 2d surface in front of u ….this is u sitting in a virtual world not having the option to use your hands as u use them in everyday life is just sad especially when it already can be done
            yes controllers r great and will be in the game likely forever……I completely agree….but not having your hands tracked and maybe capacitive gloves just for the exact moment of engagement when u pinch something or when your hand is facing away from u or when it’s behind u………it’s just sad not having that as one of the default options for interaction…..when it’s already possible and not expensive

          • Sponge Bob

            hand and finger tracking is nice but but try to use it for productivity apps and you get tired in 5 min
            and its not precise enough for drawing, CAD drafting etc
            (similar to fat finger problem for touch screens)
            6DoF small ergonomic controller attached to your hand or finger
            just one controller, not two of them – we do not use two computer mice
            and no gloves, thanks

      • Lucidfeuer

        The reason is they’re applying the same business (read speculative finance) model as already existing market segments like smartphones or TVs: release crap limited product with just disappointingly enough so that it may justify the sale.

        Or in other word technology retention, cost cutting and more importantly minimum iterative design to sustain release, which for something as unachieved and with a long-road ahead as VR is beyond fucking stupid.

  • daveinpublic

    Pretty cool that this device even exists. VR has come a long way. But, 6DOF controllers would add a lot, that may be the tipping point for me. Unless it was cheaper.

  • Doctor Bambi

    It’s really starting to feel like this headset is largely a 3DOF experience that also happens to do positional tracking as opposed to a fully fleshed out 6DOF package. If that’s the intent and case, then it’s a hard sell over Oculus Go, especially at twice the price.

  • Nathan SculptrVR

    I get horrible migraines in about 15 minutes whenever I use 3dof phone VR. I think I’m flicker sensitive?

    But I don’t have issues with 75fps 6dof standalone headsets. Even if the apps don’t make great use of 6dof, it’s worth paying for the lack of physiological awfulness.

    • benz145

      Could be flicker, could be lack of 6DOF for smaller head movements even if you aren’t walking around. No doubt it’s a great feature that every headset should have, but the price has to be right for it to make any sense.

  • Sky Castle

    I’m waiting for the Santa Cruz. Hope it doesn’t disappoint.

  • Jerald Doerr

    After owning the Vive and a Gear VR I’ll never even consider getting a stand-alone unit until someone comes up with a different controller as the Gear VR controller can barely be called janky.
    The only thing the Gear VR is good for is warming up my phone or amazing 3D porn that got old faster than eating at Hooters!

  • Peter Hansen

    “T-rex Simulator 2018” LMAO

  • Lucidfeuer

    Price is “meh”, 300$ would have been perfect for bulk-buying since it adds inside-out tracking contrary to the Oculus Go, but the rigid headband design makes it useless because you can’t carry a mallet of them around.

    There is absolutely no reason to get one beyond that, so…

  • AJ_74

    It’s unfortunate, but of all the major players in VR right now Sony is the only one that doesn’t appear to have its head shoved squarely up its ass. Sony has a focused, gamer-oriented strategy that is WORKING. Why aren’t the other’s emulating it?

    Microsoft – Releases the Xbox One X – A 4K GAME CONSOLE – with no VR headset/support, but works with PC manufacturers to release Windows “Mixed Reality” headsets, which aren’t mixed reality at all and only work with a handful of actual games. Concedes that VR is in fact primarily for gaming and cobbles together Steam VR support at the last minute.

    Oculus – Has no plans to introduce a proper CV2 anytime soon, but instead will release a standalone headset or two so that we can enjoy mobile VR in all its (non-)glory.

    HTC – Takes 1 step forward with the HTC Vive Pro hardware, but 2 steps backward by marketing it like a smartphone (is that the only way they know how to market a product?). It’s not the HTC Vive’s successor, improving on its areas of weakness while also bringing the cost down to a more mass-market level. No, it’s the “premium” version of the HTC Vive, complete with its “premium” launch price. Learned absolutely nothing from losing its sizable market-share lead in the span of a few months after Oculus’ summer sale and eventual permanent price cut.

    Samsung – Still thinks GearVR is a rousing success. Touts 10+ million headsets sold even though 8+ million of those were given away for free with Samsung Galaxy S and Note-series smartphones. Created the Samsung Odyssey, the very best of an almost pointless line of “mixed reality” headsets. Doesn’t seem concerned that the Oculus Go renders the entire GearVR platform obsolete.

    Dell/Acer/Lenovo/HP – Get free Windows 10 licenses in exchange for making pointless “mixed reality” headsets for Windows.

    Right now, Sony IS the VR market, and unless they can’t read their own tea leaves they’re already aggressively working on PS5 and PSVR2 in tandem.

    • gothicvillas

      well said. As owner of both Vive and PSVR, I cant help but think that PSVR is a complete package. I was on the fence about it and didnt even consider getting PSVR because i thought it will be poor experience. Oh man, how wrong I was! I find myself spending more time on PSVR than Vive. Sony has some quality games out there.

  • Mike549

    I’m for sure getting this. The newest Daydream headset is an improvement over the first and this will be a big improvement over that. Daydream actually has some really good exclusives and the upcoming Blade Runner game looks good.

    Stand alone is the future of VR. This is an early product but I bet it’s closer to what vr looks like in the future than the Rift and Vive where you’re tethered to a PC.

  • oompah

    yes 200$ is good for this
    which gpu it uses?

  • andywade

    I also get the impression that non-US users are an afterthought, and there seems to be little strategy in actually getting the thing into physical, real-world shops where you can actually try it out.

    A good save for them would be if they did a some deals with retailers and got the price down to an even $299 before Christmas – AND made damn sure that this reduction made it to those of us in the rest of the world. I’d snap this up for £230, I must say, but £350 is a bit… much, especially when the Quest is going to cost the same *and* will have dual 6doF controllers!