Microsoft Reveals Dell and Asus VR Headset Designs

by Ian Hamilton • May 31st, 2017

Microsoft’s planned roll out of a whole suite of VR headsets continues with the revelation of designs from Dell and ASUS.

The Microsoft roll out is one of the most interesting plays for VR dominance given the headsets are extremely light weight and feature precise tracking that requires no outside hardware — so they are much more convenient to set up than a Rift and Vive. No extra USB ports or wall-mounting needed to use the Microsoft-powered headsets. Microsoft also plans to offer full motion controllers for your hands that will provide accurate tracking whenever they are in sight of the headset’s sensors.

While Microsoft said it would allow headsets featuring a wide range of specifications it is unclear what differences there are in the actual functionality of each of the ones coming out starting later this year. There appear to be some differences in the face cushions or how the headsets lock into place on your head, but more significant differences like frame rates, resolution, field of view, and display types are largely unknown. That said, all the Microsoft headsets we’ve heard about use LCD displays instead of OLED as used by the Rift and Vive. I reached out to Microsoft recently to find out why they picked LCD and the following prepared statement explains the reasoning:

Microsoft and its partners had certain requirements with regard to resolution, performance, weight and affordability, and the displays used in the Acer headset met all of those requirements. In addition, we’ve been impressed by recent advancements in LCD technology that specifically target scenarios for immersive headsets. The Acer headset uses a new technology called “impulse backlighting” that addresses the requirements for good mixed reality experiences.

For those interested in a deep dive into these technologies, I’d recommend checking out Michael Abrash’s blog from 2013. I asked Oculus CTO John Carmack whether impulse backlighting could make LCD displays more feasible for VR, and he replied: “Yes. Limited contrast and transition times can still be an issue.” That said, getting a full picture of how the Microsoft headsets will match up against the Rift and Vive is going to have to wait until more is known.

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  • Tenka

    “No extra USB ports or wall-mounting needed to use the Microsoft-powered headsets. Microsoft also plans to offer full motion controllers for your hands that will provide accurate tracking whenever they are in sight of the headset’s sensors.”

    I hate how misleading this is to people. It makes people think that it will still track while outside the sensors “only not as accurate”, which is bullshit. Why don’t these quotes say “will ONLY provide tracking whenever they are in the sight of the headset’s sensors”, because that’s the truth .. you cant track a controller if there isn’t a sensor looking at it. Everyone I’ve seen talk about this headset is completely dodging the issue because this is a HUGE deal.

    Heaps of games already require the use of “outside-view” controller tracking. Want to get that weapon from your belt? have to look at it first. Trying to hold onto a ledge and turn around to grab another? Better do it quick because the moment you turn around you’re letting go. Oh and how in the hell are you going to grab ANYTHING from your back slot? Good luck playing Onward that requires you to use the comm’s on your shoulder and get your PDA from your back.

    Sorry, but this tech excludes roughly 50% of the VR games that are currently out there and they want us to just accept this as some how an “intuitive” way to implement.

    I’ve heard that they will be releasing external sensors so that you can solve this problem, welp there goes the entire fabled “benefit” of inside-out tracking. *slow clap*

    • Ian Hamilton

      I haven’t heard confirmation of that external sensor rumor. As far as that language I used, Microsoft claims the controllers themselves have some movement sensors and that they’ll use inverse kinematics to figure out poses when out of view. Until I try it myself though I figured wording it the way I did provided a fair amount of skepticism.

      • Tenka

        Fair enough, most of my frustration is mostly directed at Microsoft and they way they presented it originally. It seems like they are trying to market “FOV-only controller tracking” as a good thing, trying to use the typical advertising smoke and mirrors.

        The thing about external sensors is just something I’ve heard from other people, not any official source though. So maybe that’s BS.

        • Ian Hamilton

          Yeah, totally understand. I don’t like marketing manipulation either and won’t pull punches when I finally get to test this hardware at length.

          • Yosarin Blake

            Cant wait for your review! Exciting times!

        • Yosarin Blake

          I gain some hope from the words “in sight of the headset’s sensors” – i.e. NOT in your own FOV, but just have LOS to the headset. Wishful thinking? If not, the only question remains – will we be able to use aPC and a wireless set up to create a ‘near-Vive’ experience? I’m hopeful – not for me (VIVE owner) but for my friends who are baulking at the VIVE price! 🙂

          • Tenka

            Yea thats what’s so annoying anout it, coming in at a lesser and more competitive price it may end up being a more popular purchase at least on launch, and the drawbacks of the worse controller tracking may just become associated with VR in general as a result.

            I too have friends who are staying their hands just due to the price, and I would like to see them buy into VR but I would hate for them to get a much worse starting impression due to the nature of the tracking on this thing.

          • Yosarin Blake

            Good points! 🙂 Let’s hope it’s a breakthrough in price much more than a break down in quality! 🙂

      • Xilence

        Ian, I had read somewhere that ASUS and Microsoft were working closely to make an external sensor (don’t know if I read that on RoadToVR or not…) or maybe I was reading too far into what was actually typed. Either way, can you confirm or deny that for me? That would be lovely to know as it would throw literally ALL arguments against this system’s viability out of the window at that point.

    • PEDRO x (no 29)

      Only controller tracking would not be available when outside sensor field of view, but all the buttons should work (wireless connection), and I bet the controller will have accelerometers too.

      Your example, trying to grab something off your belt without looking at the belt makes no sense if you’re using a tracked controller, because, you’re just not seeing anything – you would use buttons for that.
      Actions that require gesture outside the field of view (like throwing a bowling ball for example) could be resolved with accelerometers, so again, no issue here.

      To me the idea of having the controller tracked by the cameras makes total sense.

    • daveinpublic

      Actually, I read somewhere that it can track the controllers when out of view. The controllers must have gyroscopes in them. But it’s not quiet as accurate, and over time they may drift, until you bring them back into the cameras view. But we don’t know how wide of an angle the cameras are, so the quality of tracking could be perfectly acceptable 99% of the time. So, don’t worry just yet!

  • NooYawker

    I hope they won’t force you to use the Microsoft store. They don’t even allow you to choose what drive you want to install your games. But I like the design hopefully it’ll be as light as it looks.

  • wew lad

    Hoping this or something similar will be shown at their Xbox E3 briefing.

  • Ryan

    I think none of these headsets has a mic. Bummer, I use the mic on my Vive all the time.