Hands On: Tracking The Progress With Acer’s Development Edition Windows VR Headset

by Kevin Ohannessian • April 27th, 2017

At an event in New York City this morning Acer showed its latest tech offerings. This included a VR headset that is part of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform, simply called the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset. After some hands-on time with the Development Edition of the Acer headset, how does it stack up compared to the consumer Rift and Vive? Here’s what we saw.

Tracking

At a demo for an internal prototype Microsoft VR headset at the Game Developers Conference in late February, we reported that the headset’s biggest innovation, the inside-out tracking, worked well — albeit we tested it with a very short cord.

This time we got a little more room to move around and the tracking for the new Acer dev kit remains as robust as it was in our previous demo. With the new demo I had roughly four feet in either direction to walk around. Despite jumping around, laying down on the floor, and quickly stepping sideways, the headset didn’t completely lose tracking. It stuttered a bit when coming up from the floor, just a few inches off the ground, but otherwise performed well. My demo station was only about two feet from a wall and the initial calibration of the room took a few tries, but once that succeeded tracking was solid.

The demo was set inside a building called the “cliffhouse.” As I walked around the building trying out apps the tracking never failed. Inside-out tracking continues to be a promising solution to make VR more convenient.

Display And Optics

lenses-acerBeyond the new tracking tech, the biggest question with any new headset is the quality of the visuals. The Acer headset features a 2880-by-1440 LCD screen (1440 x 1440 per eye). With that resolution, the picture was sharp and there was little sense of a screen door. Visually, the screen texture felt similar to the Oculus Rift. The fresnel lenses have the circular imprints similar to the Vive, but they seemed less pronounced than the Vive’s. There were also some God-rays around white letters floating in black, similar to the Oculus Rift.

One issue we saw in our demo prototype at GDC was that the screen was only running at 60 FPS. The result was the picture would display motion-blur when you moved around — creating a fuzziness to the graphics. This development kit for Acer’s headset runs at 90 FPS and no longer suffers from this as badly. There is still a slight blur during motion, though. Overall, this makes it not as crisp during movement as the Vive or Rift, but not too bad.

Interface

The Windows interface in virtual reality continues to impress. Windows were set up on different walls, each with different apps. They performed as they should walking or teleporting around and trying out the apps — I used an Xbox controller to interact with the system. The Edge browser and the video player ran smoothly. The apps themselves feel like a full computer operating system in VR — because it is. And it provides quite a contrast to the simpler interfaces of Oculus or Vive.

Ergonomics

acer-headset-egonomics

The Acer headset felt good. It is light, only 360 grams not counting the cable. It fit well, with a back strap that ratchets for different sizes, with foam face appliance and soft rubber gaskets around the nose.

strap-acer

As in our previous demo, the use of a flip-up screen is a huge convenience so that you can bounce back to the real world to talk to other people, answer your phone, whatever. It makes VR that much more amenable to everyday life.

One problem we had with that prototype from GDC was the length of the cord to the computer. The Acer headset’s cord is much longer — 4 meters or about 13 feet long, allowing plenty of room for movement.

It is said to use software to adjust for different IPDs, but there is no focus wheel like the Gear VR. The space inside the facial foam is large enough to support glasses though, and was not a problem for me. There aren’t built-in headphones but there is a built-in mic.

Conclusion

Overall, the Acer Mixed Reality Development Edition headset is a major improvement over the previous Windows prototype we tried. With accurate tracking using inside-out tech, a quality screen, and comfortable ergonomics, this is shaping up to be a solid release. Though we will have to wait for future details and developments to give it a proper comparison to the Rift and Vive — with the lack of an OLED screen being the most notable difference between those systems and Acer’s.

Microsoft’s Build developer conference is coming up in a couple weeks and we hope to hear more about the many headsets compatible with Windows being developed.

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  • I’ve had a chance to play with one too. I can’t believe after the Rift First Contact demo and Vive’s tutorial mode that they went with this dull Cliff House VR experience as their first impression. It’s Microsoft Bob VR.

    • 12Danny123

      Probably because they don’t want it to actually be like a game. Because MS aiming for a universal audience.

      The UI should be generic.

      • unreal_ed

        While the main software for it IS Windows in VR, it’s still a hardware device they gotta sell and impress people with. Just a room is neat (at best) but won’t exactly convert people to switch to VR

    • Banned Squirrel

      They are targeting office users here. As an IT tech this technology combined with windows 10 is revolutionary. I get requests all the time to have multiple monitors but the users don’t have the space (or the budget) to make it happen. With 1 $300 headset they can simply have a laptop, a small cubicle, and as many displays as the would like. (moving their heads to go from one screen to another)

      For me personally I would customize my virtual room with a window that displays our camera pointing outside (work in a room with no windows) I could now have my very own office with a great view.

      • Branton Dark

        I think you are over-estimating the experience and performance MSVR brings. Also, you are thinking about the hololense for that AR experience, this is VR.
        Try out virtual desktop in a vive or rift. It’s cool until you realize you can’t use your keyboard.

  • ender707

    The article calls out the type of screen as the biggest difference between this and rift/vive, but I think the lack of tracked motion controllers seems to be the biggest difference. I wonder what we will see for that?

    • Ian Hamilton

      Fair point — tracked controllers will likely be a major feature difference between these headsets. Haven’t heard details from Microsoft around how they plan to deal with 6dof controllers.

      • unreal_ed

        Yea, because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to interact with Windows through an Xbox Controller for more than 5 minutes…
        Can you use a keyboard and mouse?

        • Smokey_the_Bear

          I’m sure you can. That’s what I’ll use the most (when I get my Lenovo vr in August), but every now & again, I would like to try a game or something…which would require a real (non-xbox) vr controller.

          • unreal_ed

            They should release some stuff you can use to track your mouse and keyboard in VR. Seems like a little thing, but far from everyone knows how to touch type and even then they can’t easily/comfortably find their keyboard/mouse without seeing them

          • Uncle

            I just googled it and thats what I want, Lenovo VR, price between 300-400$ and two 1440×1440 OLED screens, so screen wise its better than Oculus and Vive.
            If the tracking is on par and is game-able, then its a gem that misses motion tracking.
            I have a feeling that many 3rd parties are working on different products, for now X1 gamepad will do and I already own PSVR so I can use PS motion controllers with PC

        • AmiRami

          Given the fact that this is Windows the KB is a certainty. the mouse will depend on whether or not the virtual environment supports cursor control. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

    • hopefully Microsoft will use their Kinect expertise and give us a new version that will allow accurate hand tracking without having to hold any controller! Wouldn’t that be game-changing? 🙂

    • Most likely, a device like the Hololens clicker will come about. I am assuming third party controllers will come along too. The headset from 3Glasses may come with a pair. I also think something like Nolo will come along. I just hope someone will find a way to get these headsets to work with Steam VR.

  • Ted Joseph

    I didnt see any mention of how the games play! Isnt MS creating mixed reality gaming?

    • James Butlin

      I sincerely doubt it. They are targeting professional users so if they add any games they will be extremely gimmicky and shallow. Lack of motion controllers and roomscale movement make me think they aren’t intending on even entering the gaming market with these.

    • Branton Dark

      Not built for gaming, mostly productivity (which no one in real productivity will actually use it for). MS tried AR with the hololense and turned out to be a total flop. It cost $3,000 had terrible performance, resolution, tracking, usability and had no applications. MS is using this device to try to clean up the hololense mess, but have failed once again. Zune, Kinect, hololense, Win10, cortana, moblie phones, VR, when do the failures stop and become a learning experience for Microsoft? Probably never at this rate.

  • unreal_ed

    How easily does it lift from your face? Does it do it in a manner similar to LG’s ? How high above the eyes does it lift?

  • Mo Last

    what about the FOV???

    • Branton Dark

      Only 95 degrees. Worse than the PSVR, and that’s saying something. This HMD is trash, just like the hololense and the kinect.

  • Ian Walker

    Any developers out there had their pre-release kit delivered yet?

  • Interesting… so they’ve solved lots of issues and can offer a device similar to Oculus and Vive but at a lower price? Well, that could change a lot in the ecosystem…

    • Branton Dark

      It’s not as similar as you make it out to be, it’s comparable to the PSVR, if anything. It’s focused around productivity, so gaming will most likely not be a thing for these HMDs becasue of bad tracking and even worse FOV than the PSVR (one of the biggest downsides to the PSVR).