Software developer Shachar “Vice” Weis has described his first impressions of Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality VR headset dev kit on his blog. His company, Packet39, makers of VR game Orbital Injection, recently received the Developer Edition headset made by Acer, which was due for an August delivery alongside a similar headset from HP.

As you might expect from a headset available for $300 (and aiming to maintain a similar price for the consumer version), the packaging is as basic as possible, and the developer unit comes with no accessories. The headsets will support motion controllers, but it appears these aren’t available for developers just yet.

Image courtesy Shachar Weis

Weis calls out Microsoft’s rather confusing use of the term “Mixed Reality” for what is a fairly conventional VR headset, noting that it lacks any features that blend realities together (beyond the boundary-warning system). “It’s not a ‘Mixed Reality’ headset by any means I can think of”, he says. “It’s a VR headset, nothing more, nothing less. There is no real-world 3D overlay, optically or with the cameras”.

The most notable feature of Microsoft’s design is the ‘inside-out tracking’—which shares some of its technology with Microsoft HoloLens—requiring no external devices or sensors to achieve positional tracking. However, it doesn’t support the same spatial mapping as HoloLens, as indicated on Microsoft’s Dev Center page, instead using two front-mounted sensors purely for headset tracking.

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Image courtesy Shachar Weis

Weis’ impressions of the headset align closely with our hands-on from the Microsoft Build conference in May, describing a cheap-feeling but pleasantly light unit (although it appears to have gained a few grams at 380g), with a useful but “somewhat awkward” flip-up mechanism. The strap is made from rigid plastic with a basic locking rachet, that is “not very smooth or elegant, but gets the job done”. It is missing certain useful features like hardware IPD adjustment (seen on the the two other headsets already on the market), built-in mic or headphones (also on those headsets), but it does have an audio jack, and the convenience of detachable foam (velcro) and an IR proximity sensor inside to detect when the headset is being worn.

The straightforward hardware design extends to the setup, as it connects directly to a PC via USB 3.0 and HDMI, with no breakout box or additional power required, and Windows appears to automatically detect and install the drivers and software.

Image courtesy Shachar Weis

Weis had some problems with the initial setup within the ‘Mixed Reality Portal’ software, taking “several attempts” to map out the play space, which is done by walking around the perimeter, holding the headset at waist height. While the cable length is similar to the Rift, Microsoft’s setup procedure could have benefited from a more generous cable. “Even with the cable fully extended, the biggest area I could trace was too small”, he says. “I had to move the computer and try again”.

Current inside-out tracking quality is unable to match the precision of tracking systems like the Rift’s ‘Constellation’ and the Vive’s ‘Lighthouse’ technology, but Weis finds it works well enough.

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Image courtesy Shachar Weis

“It’s impressively good for an inside-out tracking system with no external sensors or transmitters”, he says. “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”.

The higher resolution displays (dual 1,440 x 1,440 vs. 1,080 x 1,200) result in a “sharper image” and “considerably less screen door effect”, than the Rift or Vive, but are let down by lower quality optics, as we also noted in our hands-on.

“The sweet spot is small and the edge smear is very pronounced”, says Weis, “you can clearly see a circular edge”. Our hands-on also described a lower field of view, and indeed the “95 degrees horizontal” per the Acer specifications is slightly lower than the Rift or Vive.

Weis describes the lenses as ‘hybrid’, although he seems to be using the term (which can refer to several things in optics) differently to Oculus, whose ‘hybrid’ lenses in the Rift refer to the asymmetrical shape combined with Fresnel rings. Acer’s Fresnel solution is likely more conventional than the Rift.

Without motion controllers for now, the UI is operated by voice or a mouse / keyboard interface that “looks cumbersome but it actually works.. OK (ish).” Weis recorded a couple of clips showing the boundary warning, which operates similarly to the ‘Chaperone’ ystem in SteamVR, and the basic interface of bringing up windows that can be positioned freely in space or align intelligently with the walls and other surfaces of the virtual environment.

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  • Walextheone

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of apps and games that gets made for MS eco system. Hopefully more developers into the VR industry will in the long run gain both Rift and Vive

  • What are these Mixed things for, anyway?

    • Armando Tavares

      They’re actually NOT mixed at all :). These are standard VR devices with inside/out tracking.

  • I still don’t like Microsoft won’t build avenues for Vive/Rift to be used with their Mixed Reality software. Hopefully Value can build in Steam VR support so these users can avoid the Microsoft store.

    • Mane Vr

      ms said the door is open to both the vive and rift joining windows mix reality since it at the os level unlike steamvr and home

      • I’ve read similar comments, but the point I took was the MS and SteamVR/Oculus headsets use vastly different tracking systems and MS was not going to build in native support for Outside In, when they only support Inside Out with Hololense and these new headsets. I don’t see SteamVr or Oculus building drivers for native windows apps. Steam and Oculus want you in their market place. I would assume Steam will add support for the new headsets to join Steam, but not for their headsets to join MS.

        • Mane Vr

          That was an opinion of the person writing the article. I have to agree i don’t c the vive working with Windows mr apps but i do see the rift working with those apps and i see ms partners allowing oculus sdk to work on their hmd making home open to them

  • Smokey_the_Bear
  • Andrew Jakobs

    Hmm, less fov, no thanks, then i’ll rather take the lower resolution.

    • RFC_VR

      agree, a wide FOV is critical for immersion, to avoid “tunnel vision”; higher resolution is fantastic but not at expense of FOV?

      Biggest criticism of Daydream from me? low FOV (90), the Acer is similar (95)

      I’ve gained a few degrees by using Pixel XL and modding the View HMD with some Vive spares – slightly reducing the eyeball to lens distance = effectively widened the FOV, as the HMD is narrower to accomodate the smaller Pixel phone…

      Surely 110 degree is benchmark and wider is better going forward? 95 for Acer (and other Win HMD?) seems like retrograde step

  • Armando Tavares

    No one will remember me anyway but, when VR History gets written, these devices will be as (if not more) important as VIVE/RIFT.

    VIVE/RIFT paved the way for VR and have a foot in the mass market ‘door’. MS devices will swing those doors wide open.

    Doesn’t matter if these aren’t as good as VIVE/RIFT. The only question is: Will these be GOOD ENOUGH? I for one, hope the answer is a big, fat ‘YES!!’

    Another thing that I’m hoping to see is some one giving the users the power to use these in ANY game they wish to. Replace whatever inputs are used to look around in a game (ANY GAME!!!!!) and use the VR device sensors instead. Let users experience and decide for themselves where it’s usable and where it’s not.

  • NooYawker

    Why do they insist on calling this mixed reality? It’s an inside out VR headset. Which in itself is a pretty big deal. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

  • Bradley Jones

    So would you go with a Rift or with the Acer/HP devices if you were going to buy a device today and start dabbling in VR development?

    • Armando Tavares

      MS device for sure. Because of the price point and lower computer specs, these will (eventually) get to a lot more users AND, you’d have the chance to shape the VR landscape for these devices.

      I have a feeling the freedom of use on these will be greater then with RIFT/VIVE… I may end up being wrong though :)

      • Armando Tavares

        I got a reply to this comment from the user ‘ME’ but I can’t find it here (weird). Anyway…. I think it’s important to address what that user said so, here it is, his comment in «» and my answer soon after :)

        «Lower computer spec for the Acer/HP devices? My understanding is that these take the higher-end i5/i7 or AMD processors, thus machines that aren’t relatively new and high-end aren’t going to be able to drive the displays – at least these first developer edition. Is that not the case?»

        Higher end stuff is required for the developer edition BUT the consumer version will be driven by low-mid range parts. These are the announced minimum requirements for the consumer version;

        CPU: Intel Mobile Core i5 (e.g. 7200U) Dual-Core with Hyperthreading
        GPU: Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 620 (GT2) equivalent or greater DX12 API Capable GPU
        RAM: 8GB+ Dual Channel required for integrated Graphics
        Others: HDMI 2.0, SSD (preferred), USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories.

        As you can see, there is nothing fancy in here. Even the CPU isn’t a pure quad-core and the GPU is REALLY weak even when compared with run of the mill (100$ and above) dedicated graphics cards.

        Of course this may change in the future (hope not) but, for now, assuming these specs wont change, consumers will have it easy when compared to RIFT/VIVE.

  • superdonkey

    Fixed ipd could be an issue. Mine is 71mm

  • Stephen Jones

    I have just received and set mine up and have to agree with this reviews findings totally.

    However, the greatest thing about these and why they will be better in the long term is because as a developer I can drop the headset into my laptop bag, go and visit somebody and be up and running in a couple of minutes. I do not need to mess around with base stations etc. This is a big deal !!

    I have a Rift which is actually a better head set and experience but is not really movable. To be honest if they allowed saving of different guardian settings depending on where you are using it and allow me to have more than one computer using it without having to logout and in and reset everything again that would be good.

    Overall I am impressed for what it is worth.