When Microsoft talked about their mixed reality platform last year, they mentioned that HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo would all be making lower-cost headsets that would make VR cheaper and more accessible, if at the cost of providing a high-end experience. HP and Acer have already launched their headsets, Dell introduced their Visor earlier this week, and now we’ve got Asus’ entry.
Unlike Dell, Asus is not giving their headset a cool name. It’s simply called the Asus Windows Mixed Reality Headset, and while the name is lacking in style, the headset itself certainly isn’t. The jet black headset has a polygonal exterior, sort of like what the Vive has, with the all-important two external cameras set inside that pattern. They’ve added tons of padding to the inside to make it comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
It seems like Microsoft has set a baseline of expectations for all five of their hardware partners, because they all seem to be the same internally. Like the other headsets, the Asus headset connects to a PC or laptop with a wired connection, with two 1440 x 1440 resolution displays in front of the eyes. That’s higher resolution than the displays on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, although the 95-degree field of view is narrower than those more expensive headsets.
The real appeal of these mixed reality headsets is that there’s no need for external light towers for tracking. The headset uses the two cameras to establish head movement, although there’s not much that allows for body tracking. If you grab the $100 touch controllers Microsoft made, the headset can track those, but they’ll have to remain within line of sight of the headset’s cameras.
The Windows mixed reality platform is becoming a little more intriguing. Once billed as a mid-tier, mainstream experience, it’s looking more like these headsets can stand in well enough for more expensive headsets. The platform now works with Steam VR games, which are among the most advanced in the VR world now. As always, playing those up to their potential requires really good hardware, but if you’ve got it, this headset can run those games at 90 fps to prevent nausea.
That’s on top of the fact that these mixed reality headsets can be used as Windows 10 PCs (you can supposedly use Office within VR, for whatever reason) or with augmented reality programs. Microsoft has been teasing the potential of blending real reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality for a while (think playing a VR game while splicing in a bit of the real world if you need to keep your eye on something, with maybe a HUD thrown in there), but it’s unlikely you’ll see that many of those experiences right off the bat.
Asus hasn’t announced US pricing for their mixed reality headset yet, so we’ll have to see if it’ll end up being in line with their competitors, which have been priced at $350 (or $450 when bundled with the touch controllers).
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