Mixed Reality capability has been included as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s name for the combination of augmented reality and virtual reality. In conjunction with the release of the new software, new Mixed Reality headsets have become available from several companies. This article is about the product produced by Acer.
Windows Mixed Reality uses so-called inside-out or “world scale” tracking. In this approach, tracking cameras are integrated into the headset. The cameras watch the surrounding environment and automatically change the perspective of the imagery of the outside world that is presented to the user. The headset offers six degrees of freedom so the user’s body is free to move forward/back, up/down, left/right, roll, pitch and yaw.
The important point to note about the tracking is that it is accomplished without the need to install any features in the surrounding environment. This allows the headset to be used with minimal setup, providing enhanced convenience to the user even if the headset is still tethered to a computer.
Inside-out tracking, as implemented in some headset products, has been reported as noticeably imprecise. In addition, some difficulty has been reported with tracking hand positions. It is, therefore, encouraging that one on-line reviewer reports that “Lots of companies are doing this kind of inside-out tracking, but based on my brief experience, few of them are doing it as well as Microsoft. The headset motion is precise and fluid, without the “swimminess” that I’ve experienced elsewhere.”
An adjustment of the double-padded headband allows the user to fit the headset properly to their head. The also headset has a flip up feature. By this means, given a temporary interruption, the user does not have to remove the headset to re-engage with the real world. The Acer headset is illustrated in the figure below.
Additional headset specifications and information include the following.
- Synchronization method: Bluetooth
- Minimum refresh rate: 60 Hz, maximum refresh rate: 90 Hz
- Built in sensors
- Gyro sensor
- Proximity sensor
- Field of View: 100o
- Maximum interpupillary distance: 2.48”
- Display: two LCDs, each 2.89”
- Display resolution: 1440 x 1440 each LCD
- Pixel density: 706 ppi
- Size: 2.9” height x 7.7” width x 4.3” depth
- Weight: 1.87 lb. – which is reported in a user review as “lite.”
- Batteries: 2, AA size
- Audio Line Out: Yes
- HDMI 1.4 and HDMI 2.0
- USB Standard and USB 3.0 (cable length: 13 feet)
A set of two motion controllers have been designed for use with the Acer headset. The controllers utilize an LED tracking system. Windows Mixed Reality is the first major platform to pair inside-out tracking with motion controllers based on a LED tracking system. A key characteristic of Windows Mixed Reality is that cameras and sensors in the headset track the motion of the controllers.
The controllers include gyroscopes, magnetometers and accelerometers for gesture recognition and there is black and white tracking camera. The controllers are illustrated in the figure below.
Additional controller specifications and information include the following.
- Haptic feedback
- Thumb stick with mechanical select
- Touch pad with mechanical select
- Analog trigger button
- Grip button
- Windows button
- Menu button
- Connectivity: Bluetooth Classic
- Battery: 4, AA size
- Dimension: 152.7mm x 119.1mm x 119.1mm
- Weight: 125.6g (without battery), 171g (with battery)
Several reviews discussing the performance of the Acer AH101-D8EY Windows Mixed Reality 3D Headset are available on-line. The video at the end of this article is one of the more comprehensive of these reviews.
In conclusion, it needs to be noted that the Acer headset, and, in fact, all of the first batch of Microsoft Mixed Reality based headsets, do not actually offer a proper “mixed reality” experience. At this time, Acer’s and other available headset products completely block the user’s view of the outside world. The user sees only the digital imagery presented on the displays contained within the headset. This is conventional VR. The situation may change in a future generation of headset products.
The Acer AH101-D8EY Windows Mixed Reality 3D Headset can be found on Amazon for $269.00. Bundled with 2 controllers, the set sells for about $399. -Arthur Berman