In “Mate my gear”, it’s about … gear! On a regular basis, this column gives you an enlightened point of view like a RGB LED on the hardware news, between chips and peripherals, analyzing the evolutions of a sector on which the marketing eschewing is queen. This edition comes back to the new range of virtual reality headsets, forgiveness of “mixed reality”, that accompany the update Fall Creators of Windows 10. Developed by Acer, Lenovo or HP, they pull the prices down and propose a immersive experience, to intuitive implementation. It is still necessary that the catalog of compatible applications is expanding quickly after this launch.
The same goes for the Windows 10 updates as on certain days in October: we imagine them cold and dull, while they turn out to be warm and they hold the promise of a pleasing winter. So it was a sunny day when we went to the Microsoft event to kick off the Fall Creators Update, which is starting to roll out this week. An update which, although it obviously concerns multiple interactions and aspects of the operating system, has never had as much impact on the hardware side.
Central to the update is indeed the concept of “mixed reality”, Microsoft’s final answer to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which inaugurates a new range of virtual reality headsets for the general public. But we are never as well served by the others, it seems, and Microsoft has entrusted partner manufacturers (Acer, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, HP and Asus) to design and produce these models. . The good news ? This healthy competition should in the medium term encourage innovation and pull prices down which could, we dare to dream, finally democratize technology. The flip side? To be clear: the reality of Microsoft has “mixed” only the name, and it should be seen as a marketing coating to designate, basically,
Lenovo’s headset is distinguished by its 110 ° field of view
Since October 17, three headsets compatible with the ecosystem of Microsoft are available in France: the Acer Windows Mixed Reality (449 euros), the Lenovo Explorer (449 euros) and the HP 1440 Spatial Computing (399 euros). Surprisingly enough, the official Microsoft storeoffers on our territory the Dell Visor (510 euros) in place of the model of HP, but it is nevertheless this first trio that is found in all independent dealers. The range should expand gradually over the months, complementing the models of Samsung and Asus. Beyond their look, few elements fundamentally differ: they are all opaque screen headsets, with a definition of 1440×1440 pixels for each eye and a refresh rate of the display of 90 Hz. They therefore include totally the user and will not superimpose the screen to the outdoor scene, unlike the HoloLens which deserves, alone, the name of “mixed reality”.
An installation without additional sensor
At 350 grams, Acer’s helmet is one of the lightest in the range
Another common point of the range: all headsets enjoy the same ease of installation, through a single cable of 4 meters which includes a dual USB and HDMI connector. These are therefore not autonomous models, but the conditions required to benefit from them are limited; a PC with an Intel Core i5 7200U dual-core processor and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 or Nvidia MX150 / 965M graphics chip with 8 GB of RAM is enough to qualify. Microsoft has released a free utility to check if your PC is compatible (spoiler: that should be the case). To enjoy more than 90 FPS, you will need at least one Intel Core i5 4590 or a Ryzen 5 1400, with a Nvidia GTX 960 / 965M / 1050 or an AMD RX 460. That is to say that the bar no ‘
Built into the packs, the controllers are easy to handle and display good accuracy
But the real advantage of mixed-reality headsets is their “inside-out” technology, which takes the form of two front-facing cameras and a series of integrated motion sensors. Each kit marketed in France comes with a pair of joysticks that naturally evoke the Oculus Touch; their grip is intuitive, with triggers that fall immediately under the fingers, and especially the entire device does not require additional sensors to install in the room to operate. Although they all have a paw and they are not autonomous, these helmets offer a welcome level of freedom. With Space Pirate Trainer, already available for HTC Vive and Oculus, in which you have to carry a hand behind the back to change weapons, the controllers are precise and responsive. Same thing with SUPERHOT VR , which does not suffer either slowdown or inaccuracies. A simple installation and intuitive controls, Microsoft has decidedly serious arguments to argue to enter the ball.
Your virtual interior is still waiting for the movers
To dive into the virtual worlds, you must go through the ecosystem that is installed through the Fall Creators Update. It takes the form of a virtual house, the “Cliffhouse”, that you develop freely: you then walk from room to room to access the different worlds you have composed. The interface is rather ergonomic and well designed, even if the movements are a little jerky. You use the joysticks to jerk around, or you look in one direction and you press a button to teleport to it.
HP’s headset is one of the most affordable and has a good support
But it is precisely in terms of content that the shoe rubs. You can of course launch any universal application among the 20,000 available on the Windows Store, but the prospect of pinning Edge or consulting the weather with a helmet screwed on the skull appears for now rather light to justify such purchase. Microsoft promises support for Steam VR in the coming months, but to really enjoy a 360-degree immersion you have to settle for a meager selection of demos, like Halo Recruit (a kind of bestiary of the game world, without real interactions), or the most bluffing HoloTour, a historic tour of Rome or Machu Picchu.
To access content, you need to customize your virtual house, integrated with the latest Windows 10 update
Overall, however, the Microsoft solution has a serious potential and could well contribute to revitalize this sector still rather confidential. We particularly appreciate its simple deployment, even if it results in some concessions. For example, headphones are not equipped with headphones: you will need to connect headphones to the jack they are wearing to enjoy the sound. And after forty minutes with two helmets screwed on the skull, we tend to sweat in big drops. The Samsung HMD Odyssey, scheduled for the end of the year and which has a definition of 1440×1600 pixels per eye, however correct this pitfall. It is also a pity that the name of “mixed reality” is overused and that it initiates a debate that is superimposed on that of the interest of virtual reality at this stage. It will therefore be necessary to explain, again and again, that it is not a question of augmented reality – a confusion that could scare the public.
The fact remains that Microsoft is in the starting blocks and that its offer, clearly segmented between this range and its public HoloLens for professionals (more than 3000 euros!), Is consistent. The prospects could have been more pleasing for the firm of Redmond if Oculus had not announced, a week before this release, a drop in price of the Rift to position definitely the full package to 450 euros. That is to say, a rate substantially identical to that of the offer of HP, Lenovo and Acer. But when the price war is raging, it’s often a good sign.
Scheduled for the end of the year, the Samsung HMD Odyssey is the first model to directly integrate a headphone