When Microsoft announced the upcoming Windows 10 Creators update last October, they had quite a bit to say about virtual reality. They announced they were partnering with the usual suspects — HP, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, and Acer — to create affordable home virtual reality headsets implementing technology from their HoloLens headset. Out of those hardware partners, Lenovo is first out of the gate, showing off an early version of their headset.at CES 2017.
Until now, we’ve only seen two kinds of VR — mobile VR, which uses simple headsets and a smartphone, and home VR, which requires high-powered PCs and a lot of peripherals and room space. Mobile can’t provide in-depth experiences, while home VR is far too expensive for most consumers. The headsets Microsoft teased would be in between the two — more affordable home VR without all the external gear needed.
The early version of Lenovo’s headset is much lighter than the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, and only has two cables coming out of it — HDMI to a PC and the power cable. There’s also an audio port for use with headphones. We’re not sure what sort of display Lenovo will be using inside the headset, but since Microsoft said they expected these headsets to retail for $300, it’s unlikely they’ll go all-out.
Headsets like these aren’t going to be in competition with the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift — those two will still be the premiere PC VR headsets, and if you want high-end VR gaming, you’ll have to shell out the big bucks. But, not everyone wants VR for gaming. That’s where Lenovo is going with this headset — people who want to watch 360-degree videos or check out what HoloLens technology has to offer.
It’s also for people who simply don’t have the space for expensive VR. For the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, you almost need a whole room dedicated to VR — light towers need to be carefully placed in order for head and positional tracking to work properly. The Lenovo VR headset doesn’t need anything external — there are two cameras on the front of the headset that handle head tracking independently. They also enable augmented reality, allowing for what Microsoft called merged reality. Using Windows 10 and HoloLens software, Windows holograms (think virtual PC menus) can be thrown into VR environments, or on top of the real world if the headset is being used for AR instead of VR. It’s much more flexible than a standard home VR headset in that way.
But, we’re a ways out from being able to purchase this headset. Last October, Microsoft said they expected their partners to ship these headsets sometime in 2017. The Lenovo VR headset is being refined, so there’s no timetable for a release just yet. We’ll be on the lookout for more information as the year goes on.
Disclaimer: CES 2017 coverage is brought to you by Lenovo. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.