Yesterday I published a great news for the VR ecosystem, that is the announcement by Vive of the Vive Pro headset and the Vive Wireless Adapter. Today has been the turn the Lenovo to announce something awesome made in collaboration with Google: The Mirage Solo headset and the Mirage VR 180 Camera.
It’s a lot of time that we were waiting for a headset made by Lenovo in collaboration with Google, exactly from the latest Google I/O conference. There, Google teased that it was working with two partners, Lenovo and HTC, to create two standalone headsets based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR design reference. These headsets should have been 6 DOF and the tracking technology should have been provided by Google itself, with a technology called Worldsense. Of course, these devices should have worked with the Daydream platform.
HTC has later changed its mind, going to its own road and releasing in China a proprietary headset called the Vive Focus, that features Viveport + Vive Wave as the software platform. Lenovo, instead, has continued pursuing the Daydream path and yesterday has revealed its own headset called with the cool name of “Mirage Solo”.
This headset is the first standalone device of the Daydream platform (surely we’ll see more coming, since 2018 will be the year of standalone HMDs) and the first device in general to use Google Worldsense technology, that surely comes from all the studies that Google has made on SLAM technologies with Google Tango (RIP). The headset is all white and made of plastic: forget all that fluffy fabric of the standard Daydream View. It features two cameras in front of it so that wearing it you seem like a weird robot from Futurama.
It is quite heavy (more than 600g!) and big. Despite this, the interesting hands-on on Engadget reports that it is balanced and comfortable on the head (even if it is not easy to wear) and that it stays firmly onto your head. The headset features 2 buttons to change the volume and then a 3.5mm jack because… a-hem, there’s no integrated audio. They give you headphones in the package, but honestly, I found this choice by Lenovo pretty strange, considering the fact that all the most recent headsets feature integrated audio: one great reason to choose a standalone headset is its portability, the fact that you have to carry with you only one device. Having to take with you headphones and wear them every time you put on the headset is a true nuisance (I know that very well because of my Gear VR). At least there is a dual integrated mic.
The screen is an LCD display and the resolution is a good one (2560 x 1440) with a decent framerate (75Hz) and a pretty standard FOV (110°). It has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of Storage. The headset has also an interesting hole for your SD card (up to 256GB), so that you can not only expand your storage, but also shoot some photos and videos with your Lenovo Mirage Camera and then preview them immediately within your headset. This is a nice feature, that make the Mirage Solo a very interesting device for photographers and video editors (think about using it with a VR video editor like the one of VeeR). Another cool feature is that it comes with Chromecast support embedded inside, so it is possible to easily share what the user is seeing in VR on an external screen. The battery of the device should last seven hours of use with gaming and video watching, according to Lenovo.
If you want a complete list of specifications, you can find them on Road To VR.
The headset comes with a 3 DOF controller, that is a standard Daydream controller, with a touchpad and some buttons. Again, as I’ve stated for the Vive Focus… I really don’t know why all these companies are making 6 DOF headsets with a single damn 3 DOF remote: that breaks immersion and interaction possibilities. I would really love to see all these 6 DOF headsets come with two 6 DOF controllers, as the Pico Neo or Oculus Santa Cruz.
The software platform will be Google Daydream, so people buying a Lenovo HMD will be able to use all the already existing Daydream apps (like for instance Youtube) and games from Day 1. Furthermore, Google has announced an exclusive app made for this headset produced in collaboration with Seismic Studios: “Blade Runner: Revelations”. In the game, you take the role of a blade runner and you have to solve a mystery regarding a replicant plot. So, if you are a Blade Runner fan, think about the idea of buying a Mirage Solo headset (and if you’re such a fan, read also my review about “Blade Runner 2049 Memory Lab”).
About price and availability: the device should be available in Q2 2018 for a price “below $400”. We have only very vague data about that. Since they specified “below $400”, a lot of journalists have thought about a possible price of $399.99. This is the lowest price that I’ve seen in a standalone headset, and I think that it can be an interesting price for adoption among VR enthusiasts, professionals, and innovators. Regarding general consumers, I think that most people have not a clear picture of why they would need to buy a VR headset, so IMHO they won’t even spend $200 for an Oculus Go and for sure won’t buy a Lenovo headset for the double of the price.
Mirage Solo vs Vive Focus
Let me spend some words for a comparison between two of the most interesting standalone headsets that have released recently: the Mirage Solo and the Vive Focus.
What are the main differences? Well, just to say:
- Specifications: Vive Focus wins, thanks to its higher display resolution of 2880 x 1600 and especially its integrated speakers, that make the device easily portable;
- Interaction: it’s a tie since both are 6 DOF headsets with a 3 DOF controller;
- Battery: Mirage Solo wins, with 7 hours against the 3 hours of the Focus;
- Comfort: Vive Focus wins since from the Engadget’s hands-on seems more easy to be worn; furthermore it is lighter and doesn’t need additional audio headphones;
- Price: Mirage Solo wins because it costs $200 less.
So, every headset has its pros and its cons. My gut says Vive Focus, especially for the integrated audio… but paying $200 more only for that is a bit too much. I think that if the Focus wants to sell well in the western world, it has to lower its price a bit.
UPDATE: Mr. Wang Graylin, the president of HTC Vive China, has answered to this statement saying that the price of the Vive Focus in China is so high because of Chinese taxes. He said that for a honest comparison, I should consider that if Focus will reach the US, it would cost around $500. This means that the Lenovo Mirage Solo is still cheaper, but of $100 and not $200.
Lenovo Mirage Camera
Do you remember my post about Youtube VR 180 format? Basically, in there I explained Google’s plans regarding Youtube and VR: since it has been demonstrated that 70% of the time the user of a 360 video just watches the forward direction and since the 360 videos often are non immersive because they’re monoscopic, Google has added support in Youtube for the VR 180 format. The 180 format is a new (“new” for Youtube) format where the user has only the visuals of what happens in front of him, but these visuals are in 3D, so stereoscopic. VR 180 format is more immersive (because of stereoscopy)… that’s why it is one of the most used formats in VR porn since the beginning.
At that time, Google also announced that it was going to release some cameras dedicated to shooting easily such kind of videos and yesterday it has officially fulfilled its promise, with the announcement of the:
- Lenovo Mirage Camera;
- YI Technology’s YI Horizon VR180 Camera.
These are two devices that will be released this spring (so along the Mirage Solo headset, I guess) that feature two cameras that are able to shoot a stereoscopic 4K video of the hemisphere that is in front of the user and a microphone to record the audio. The camera is very easy to be used: being only 180°, you don’t have to care of how you will appear in the shot: like in a normal camera, it records only what is in front of you. And after you’ve recorded everything, you can remove the SD card and put it directly into your Mirage Solo headset to make your friends admire in an immersive way the videos you’ve just shot. Otherwise, it can also stream videos over Wi-fi or preview them on your phone. This is the kind of easiness of use that we all want for VR. For the complete specifications of these devices, have again a look at the related Road To VR post. Ah, do you want to know the price? Well, me too :D.
Later this year, other cameras may join this platform, as ones from LG, Z Cam, and Panasonic.
I really enjoy this camera format, because:
- It shoots 3D videos and I think that VR without 3D is so boring because it is not immersive;
- It is very easy to be used since it just seems a standard camera and you can use it as you already use a camera, so you have not to learn anything new before using such device.
That’s why I find it more interesting than all the 360 cameras out there.
And that’s all for today! Another great day for VR at CES thanks to Lenovo and Google… let’s hope to find other interesting pieces of news tomorrow…
(Header image by: Chris Velazco/Engadget)
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