April 28, 2017

Having been first introduced back at CES 2017, it’s only now that we’re finally able to experience and see what all the hoopla is about with Acer’s Mixed Reality HMD headset. Defined as a “mixed reality” headset, which blends aspects of virtual and augmented experiences, it’s going to be interesting to see if it’s going to differentiate enough from the pack to stand. And based on our quick hands on experience with it, the headset is shaping to virtualize the traditional computing experience we get from our laptops and desktops.

Visually, the Acer Mixed Reality Headset sports an intuitive design that’s easy to put on and adjust. It reminds of the halo-style of the PlayStation VR‘s design, since the majority of the headset is just a single band that goes over our head – thus supporting the display compartment of the headset. Sporting a plastic frame with a piercing blue and black paint job, it features a sporty-esque design – not so much the sci-fi look of other headsets.

When you hear mixed reality, a see-through headset of some sort (like Microsoft’s HoloLens) comes to mind, but this is a closed headset. Considering that it’s meant to act as a closed system, one that doesn’t require the aid of ancillary sensors for motion tracking, the two infrared cameras on the front of the headset are used for room scaling, enabling it to establish the boundaries of the real world – so you don’t accidentally collide with a wall or something else in the process.

After checking out the demo, we feel as though it’s more of a virtual reality headset than a mixed reality one, at least based on the current demos and features they are showing off. Sure, the motion tracking worked really well in our demo, allowing us to move around within our confined space, lean forward/backward, and even stoop down. The demo we checked out was a virtual home of sorts that allowed us to interact with many of the Windows 10 apps and services we’re familiar with on a PC. Essentially, it’s Windows 10 virtualized!

For example, we’re able to load up a video using the media player and have it projected on a wall. Other Windows 10 apps, like Microsoft’s Edge browser and Weather app, were all accessible by interacting with them on the various walls. Moving around this virtual Windows 10 home is done by the usual transportation method using an Xbox One controller – in addition to the usual movement within our space.

Later on, we’re able to experience another app that allowed us to view 360-degree videos. You’d think it’d be different here, but the experience ended up being just like any other VR headset that allows for the viewing of 360-degree videos. And lastly, we ran another app that transported us to this view of Machu Picchu – where we were able to move around and see the horizon from all angles. Again, this isn’t anything new in the world of VR.

Going back to what we mentioned earlier, the experience here can be best summed up as a virtualized version of Windows 10. Rather than using a PC or laptop, the Acer Mixed Reality headset essentially virtualized the operating system. The beauty in this headset is that the motion tracking is all integrated into the headset, so there are no additional accessories to set up. And for developers, whether they’re apps or games, this new platform will allow for many other “compatible” headsets to leverage these apps.

Clearly it’s not meant to compete against the Rift or Vive, since those headsets are more focused on gaming than anything else, but it’s really tough to see how it’s more compelling than the mixed reality experience of the HoloLens, since that headset augments the real world with overlays – whereas this one is meant to be a completely closed, virtual experience. No word on its price just yet, but as Microsoft and Acer claims, it’ll be at a competitive level.

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