Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset

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Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset
Acervrheadset.png
Information
VR/AR Virtual Reality
Type Head-mounted display
Subtype Discrete HMD
Platform Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality (Platform)
Developer Acer
Operating System Windows 10
Requires PC
Display Dual LCD display
Resolution 2880 x 1440 (1440 x 1440 per eye)
Pixel Density 706 ppi
Refresh Rate 90Hz [1]
Field of View 95 Degree Horizontal
Optics Fresnel lenses
Tracking 6DOF
Rotational Tracking Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Magnetometer
Positional Tracking Inside-out tracking
Latency Motion to Photon: Less than 10ms
Input Keyboard/Mouse,Xbox One GamePad, Motion Controllers
Connectivity HDMI, USB
Weight 1.87 lb
Size Width : 7.7"x 94.3" x 2.9"
Cable Length 4 m
Release Date August 2017
Price $399 with Motion Controller
Website https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/series/wmr
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Introduction

The Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset is one of the first head-mounted displays (HMDs) developed in partnership with Microsoft for this company’s flagship operating system (OS). It is part of a new line of virtual reality (VR) headsets for the Windows 10 VR, and one of the first to have a prototype ready for testing. The VR headset takes advantage of the VR and augmented reality (AR) capabilities provided by the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Microsoft refers to this new range of headsets as mixed reality (MR), blurring the boundary between AR and VR. The mixed reality headset targets developers and VR/AR enthusiasts. It creates a virtual space where the user can interact with the OS by, for example, projecting Windows apps on the wall or in the middle of thin air.

Acer’s VR headset uses positioning technology from the HoloLens project, avoiding the necessity of external infrared illuminators. Indeed, one of the core reasons for Microsoft to introduce its mixed reality headsets is the complexity of setting up virtual reality hardware, which could deter its adoption for some users. Microsoft aims to simplify the setup process - Acer’s headset is designed to be simply plug-and-play - and deliver virtual experiences to users in an affordable manner.

There have been some issues with the early development kit; there were reports of ambient light affecting how the headset tracking works and causing the screen to black out. However, it is expected that these problems will be solved before its release to the general public.

The first batch of the headset is scheduled to release in August 2017, at $300, and targets developers. The commercial version is expected to be available at the end of the same year.

The headset also comes bundled with two motion controllers for $399. This means that Acer VR headset costs the same as the more advanced Oculus Rift.

Features

Moving away from infrared tracking positional tracking technology that involves wall hacking or placing trackers on a crowded desk, The Acer Mixed Reality headset is built upon the evolution of Hololens inside-out tracking technology.

With two front facing cameras that track head position and environment, the headset is able to achieve 6DoF positional tracking without any external trackers. This easy setup made the headset attractive to VR users who find it a burden setting up trackers.

Hardware

The Acer Mixed Reality Headset is considerably lighter than Rift and Vive and spots a simple sharp colored design. Unlike most headset with clear lens, the headset comes with an opaque lens where you can flip the visor up a clear view of your physical environment.

The headset also boasts two 2.89” HD LCD displays with 1440 x 1440 resolution per eye at 90Hz refresh rate and 95 degrees FOV. A single cable with HDMI 2.0 and USB3.0 connectors is all it takes to connect the headset to a high-performance PC. Rather than wand type controllers as in higher-end competitors, the mixed reality headset works with Xbox one controller.

Technical Specifications

Specifications

  • Two high-resolution liquid crystal displays at 1440 x 1440
  • 2.89” diagonal display size (x2)
  • Front hinged display
  • 95 degrees horizontal field of view
  • Display refresh rate up to 90 Hz (native)
  • Built-in audio out and microphone support through 3.5mm jack
  • Single cable with HDMI 2.0 (display) and USB 3.0 (data) for connectivity
  • Inside-out tracking
  • 4.00m cable

System recommendations for app developers

Operating systems Windows 10 – Creators Update (Developer Mode enabled)
Processor Desktop: Intel Desktop i7 (6+ Core) OR AMD Ryzen 7 1700 (8-Core, 16 threads)
Graphics GPU AMD Radeon RX 480 (8GB) equivalent or greater | DX12 and WDDM 2.2 capable GPU
Graphics drivers Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 2.2
Thermal design power 15W or greater
HMD connectors HDMI 1.4 or Display Port 1.2 for 60 Hz HMDs

HDMI 2.0 or Display Port 1.2 for 90 Hz HMDs 1x available graphics display port for HMD

Resolution SVGA (800x600)
Bit depth 32 bits of color per pixel
RAM 16GB or greater
Storage >10GB additional free space
USB 1x available USB port for HMD

USB 3.0 Type-A Note: USB must supply a minimum of 900mA

Bluetooth >Bluetooth 4.0 (for accessory connectivity)

Software

The Acer Windows 10 Mixed Reality Headset requires the Windows 10 Creator Update to function.

Apps

The Acer Windows 10 Mixed Reality Headset allows basically any apps on Windows 10 Creator Update to run. As of November 2017, selected VR software from Valve´s Steam VR catalog will be available.

Developer

Developers who are looking to work on the Acer Windows 10 Mixed Reality Headset could check out more resources at

https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/projects/campaigns/windows-mixed-reality

Hardware analysis and reception

One of the main points that virtual reality analysts have noticed is that the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset is not really mixed reality - at least not for now. Since the Acer Windows headset has cameras on the front that could provide video of the outside world for augmented reality, the fact is that these are - currently - only used for inside-out tracking. However, the HMD’s dual cameras provide the technical capability for augmented reality and, therefore, become a truly ‘mixed reality’ device.

Depending on the characteristics that the user values, the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset could be a good option for VR since it has balancing pros and cons. For example, the hardware’s setup is very easy, with Windows 10 native support and no external tracking sensors required; the inside-out head tracking is also considered top-notch but the motions controllers are not on the same level as the competition.

Dan Ackerman, from CNET, gave an overall impression of the hardware by saying that he was “pleasantly surprised to say that it's far better than it was just a few months ago. Performance has greatly improved since those earlier demo sessions, and setting up the hardware - long a pain point for VR headsets - is quick and easy. But for now, the overall Windows Mixed Reality experience still leaves me with mixed emotions.”

While the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset does not break into ‘next-gent’ territory, it could become an entry-level device for VR since the minimal requirements are lower than high-end VR headsets. On the other side, the Oculus Rift costs the same as the Acer Windows HMD and has an advantage over content currently available.

Below, the main characteristics of the hardware are evaluated regarding pros and cons.

Display

Pros - Acer’s VR headset has a display resolution of 1,440 x 1,440 per-eye and a field of view of around 100 degrees. The image quality is considered good with a noticeable increase in sharpness compared to the Rift and HTC Vive.

Cons - The ‘screen door effect’ is still visible, although reduced. This could be the result of using an LCD display that “in some ways has a more uniform screen door structure than the PenTile subpixel layout of the Rift and Vive.” However, the lack of inconsistencies in color and brightness from one pixel to the next - known as mura - results in a reasonable step up in clarity. Also, quick head movements when combined with high-contrast scene elements reveal a bit of ghosting effect, although this is not particularly noticeable unless one looks for it.

The Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset display uses Fresnel lenses with medium grit ridges that are between the ones used in the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. In high contrast scenes, god ray artifacts can be seen.

Headset design

Pros - The headset is light, well-balanced, and practical, allowing for long sessions in VR without weighing heavily on the head.

Cons - The design of the Acer Windows headset and the materials used give it more of a toy feeling instead of being a premium product. Also, It can be difficult to keep the eyes in the sweet spot of the lenses. Due to the weight of the headset’s cord, sometimes the device goes off-balance to the right side, needing adjustment and tightening of the headstrap.

Headphones

Cons - There is no integrated headphones. The user will need to plug a 3.5 mm headphones or use a wireless pair. With the cord being positioned on the right side of the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset, this could interfere with larger headphones. Earbuds might be the better option for the Acer Windows VR headset.

Visor

Pros - The Acer Mixed Reality headset has a flip-up visor that has been praised for its convenience. It lets the user easily see the real world without removing the HMD. The flip-up visor also simplifies putting the headset on.

The visor completely prevents any external light from leaking.

Cons - For some people, the foam around the nose might affect their normal air intake by pinching the nose slightly.

Motion Controllers

Cons -The design of the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset motion controllers is between the Oculus Touch and the HTC Vive wand controllers but with an inferior build quality. They have also been considered large and unbalanced.

The controllers have a trackpad and thumbstick, and their placement is not the best for how the thumb naturally wants to rest. The ‘grip button’ is small and can be difficult to press depending upon how the user is gripping the controller.

Acer Mixed Reality headset setup

Pros - The setup for Acer’s Windows headset is fast; the first time setting up the HMD can take around 10 minutes or even less. A factor that contributes to this is the lack of external sensors, saving time by avoiding the setup of a tracking system.

Head tracking

Pros - The inside-out head-tracking technology of Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset is one of the best, being robust and precise. Occasionally, the system loses tracking and a message is shown asking the user to look around in order to reestablish tracking. The inside-out tracking system seems to work fine even at low levels of light.

Controller tracking

Mixed - The inside-out tracking system for the motion controllers is not on the same level than the head tracking. Good positional tracking is only obtained when the controllers are in the field of view of the headset’s cameras, which is larger than the FOV of the HMD. When the controllers are out of the cameras’ FOV, location is only assessed by the controllers' internal sensors. In this case, tracking becomes inaccurate quickly. However, when the motion controllers are in front of the cameras, they work closer to what can be expected from the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. For casual users of VR, the Windows Mixed Reality controllers can be satisfactory, but for hardcore gamers, or users, the inside-out tracking might not be the best.

Operating system

Pros - The Windows 10 is the foundation for the Mixed Reality experiences that can be accessed by the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset. Ben Lang, from Road to VR, wrote that it “is an impressive immersive computing foundation that Microsoft has built into Windows 10. Not only is essentially every piece of software on your computer available inside of VR, the Mixed Reality environment also employs robust voice control via Cortona which can help you quickly execute common actions.”

The VR content is presented in a virtual reality environment called ‘Windows Cliff House’ - a hub for Windows’ VR content which includes flat desktop apps and proper VR apps. The Cliff House is functional and can be customized to the user’s liking.

Cons - While the Cliff House is polished and has a sound concept, it still needs to mature and improve the method of controlling traditional apps.

Content

Cons - Currently, there are only 47 VR apps available to the Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Microsoft will need to improve the content library in order for the headset to become a viable option when compared to its competition.

History

  • October 2016: Microsoft announced a partnership with Acer for the development of a mixed reality headset.
  • January 2017: Acer Mixed Reality Headset revealed to attendees at CES 2017.
  • August 2017: Developer Version release date.
  • October 2017: Consumer Version release date.

References

  1. VRcompare. Acer AH101 Specs. Retrieved from https://vr-compare.com/headset/acerah101

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