As always, CES 2018 was a big week for the entire VR industry, but there’s no question as to what headset stole the show: the Vive Pro. HTC’s enhanced SteamVR device has our mouths watering at the thought of its 3K display, integrated audio and improved design and we can’t wait to revisit games like L.A. Noire and Fallout 4 with it. But there was another headset announced last week that didn’t steal quite as many headlines, Google and Lenovo’s Mirage Solo, and I’m just as excited about that.
At first glimpse, the Mirage Solo might not seem as interesting as the Vive Pro; though the headset has six degrees of freedom (6DOF) inside-out tracking, the single hand controller still only supports basic pointing and tilting, while the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor won’t be able to generate anywhere near the same level of visual fidelity as a high-powered PC. But there’s one good reason the Mirage Solo is probably my most anticipated standalone VR headset on the horizon: Daydream.
Last year, I wrote about how Daydream’s library was quickly becoming a home for some of VR’s best obscure gems. The Daydream View may not be as talked about as the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, or even the Gear VR, but Google has partnered with some amazing talent to grow a compelling library on the platform. Truly, I’d list Eclipse: Edge of Light, Virtual-Virtual Reality and Untethered as unmissable experiences that anyone searching for quality VR content should check out.
The trouble is that the technology supporting Daydream hasn’t always been the best way to experience VR itself. The first generation pairing of the original View headset and Pixel phone was plagued with problems from an odd fit to excessive screen door effect. The Pixel 2 and new View make for a much-improved set, though it’s still not perfect. The Mirage Solo, though, boasts several improvements that make me excited to go back and rediscover some of my favorite VR experiences.
On paper, there’s the display. Pixel 2 has a usable 1080 x 1920 screen, but the Mirage Solo will present the clearest way to experience Daydream yet with a 2560 x 1440 LCD screen. There are also added conveniences, like not having to readjust a smartphone inside the headset to make it perfectly aligned with your lenses or draining your handset’s battery while it’s in use. I haven’t tried it on for myself, but I’m also hoping that it makes for a better fit than either Daydream View headset.
And then there’s the WorldSense tracking, which will finally allow you to lean into virtual worlds just as we can on Rift, Vive and PSVR. The 3DOF controller may still be a hindrance, but I can’t wait to revisit Eclipse’s alien world and be able to inspect its intricate environments in greater detail than before or jump back into Lola & the Giant with the ability to lean down itno the world.
If I have a concern, though, it’s for the device’s future. Anyone that jumps into Daydream now will find enough content to last them a good few months, but what comes after that? There’s a promising new Blade Runner game on the way and Google keeps YouTube topped up with 360-degree content, but what’s in store for later is anyone’s guess. We often don’t find out about big releases until they’re upon us, and the company would do well to give fans a few more reasons to pick up a Mirage Solo in the coming months especially with the hefty $400 price tag.
Still, Daydream deserves a better stage and a bigger audience (0r, rather, its content library does) and the Mirage Solo represents a chance for the platform to boost its market share (big games like Gunjack 2 have only sold between 5,000 – 10,000 copies according to Google Play). Ultimately, the smart money is on Oculus’ $200 Go as an early standalone success story, but I’m rooting for the Mirage Solo and the many developers that deserve more customers.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo will be releasing in Q2 2018 for $400.