Virtual Reality Devices: Lenovo and Oculus

Virtual Reality Devices: Lenovo and Oculus

If you’re planning on dipping your toe into virtual reality (VR) water, you’ll likely be curious about what kind of virtual reality devices you can get your hands on. Two of the major companies that have emerged in the world of virtual reality are Lenovo and Oculus. Take a look at their VR hardware offerings.

Virtual Reality Devices: Lenovo Mirage Solo
The Lenovo Mirage Solo is similar to the HTC Vive Focus. It is a standalone, all-in-one headset that does not require any additional computers or mobile devices to operate. Similar to the Vive Focus, the Mirage Solo will allow 6DoF via a pair of front cameras, allowing for spot tracking from the inside out. This setting enables you to wirelessly move around virtual worlds in the same way you would in the real world.
With an integrated display, 3DoF controller, and positional tracking using Google’s WorldSense technology, the Mirage Solo eliminates the need for any external sensors. The headset is also built on top of Google Daydream technology, allowing the headset to take advantage of Google’s existing ecosystem of Daydream apps.
The Mirage is slated to launch sometime in the second quarter of 2018. The original price point was set above $400, but Lenovo has since modified this and is eyeing a price below $400. It will be interesting to see where the price finally drops. It is clear, however, that companies like Lenovo keep an eye on the informal market to try and determine the right price point to target that market.

Virtual Reality Devices: Oculus Santa Cruz
The Oculus Santa Cruz was originally announced as the Oculus Connect 3 in 2016. Oculus appears to be positioning this new product as a mid-tier headphone similar to the Vive Focus and Lenovo Mirage Solo. However, it promises a higher VR experience than current portable VR models like the current Gear VR or upcoming models like the Oculus Go. However, it does not offer the same level of experience as the PC-powered Oculus Rift. Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell confirmed this to Ars Technica, framing Santa Cruz as a mid-tier product in Oculus’ three-headphone strategy for VR hardware.
Like the Focus and Solo, Santa Cruz is a standalone VR headset. Instead of being powered by any external device, it has everything you need in the headset itself. No more tripping over wires or external wires leading to your device. It is claimed that it will allow 6DoF for motion and position tracking by tracking the headset from the inside out. Similar to tethered, sensor-based headphones, Santa Cruz will display a virtual network if you get too close to a physical barrier such as a wall.
It also appears that Santa Cruz is designed to use a pair of 6DoF wireless controllers, which can put their motion controls on top of current and next-generation wireless headphones whose controllers only allow 3DoF. Four Santa Cruz cameras arranged around the edges of the headset allow for a very large area to track the position of the controllers. Some current generation headphones that use inside-out tracking for their controllers can cause tracking loss if the controllers move too far from the headphones sensors line of sight. It appears that Oculus has taken steps to resolve this issue with Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz seems to be following other headphones in regards to audio, too. Go and Santa Cruz are using a new spatial audio system that, rather than relying on headphones, will place speakers on either side of the headset, allowing audio to be broadcast not only to the wearer of the HMD but to the rest of the room as well. There is still a 3.5mm audio jack for those who prefer headphones, but the comfort of the headphones is a nice touch.
On the surface, the Santa Cruz looks like a promising device. The biggest question marks surrounding Santa Cruz at the moment are the schedule and final specifications. Oculus has remained silent about final product specifications, release date, etc., so it is not possible to list final product specifications. Oculus is shipping hardware to developers in 2018; This may lead to the belief that the final specifications of the devices are about to close. Based on past product timelines between the developer release and the final release, a good estimate of the consumer release date for Santa Cruz is likely early 2019, although Oculus knows its final release date.

With the current generation of VR headsets, audio consumption is often cited as one of the reasons why virtual reality experiences feel like solo experiences. Most current generation headphones come with or require a set of headphones to experience what’s happening in virtual reality. This can result in a very immersive experience for the wearer but it effectively shuts off the wearer from the outside world, completely covering their eyes and ears. It seems that many newer headphones tend to run the speakers on the headphone itself along with the headphone audio ports. This will enable the headset wearer to maintain at least an auditory connection to the outside world, as well as allow others to hear what the headset wearer is currently experiencing.

Virtual Reality Devices: Oculus Go
Oculus appears to be targeting a different audience with its standalone Oculus Go headset. While Mirage, Focus, and Santa Cruz seem to be positioned as mid-tier options between the current desktop and mobile VR markets, Go appears to be taking over (while upping the ante) the current mobile VR experience.
The Go is a standalone headset that does not require a mobile device. It offers 3DoF, providing rotation tracking and orientation but not the ability to physically move backward or forward in space. This makes Go more suitable for sitting or stationary experiences.
While Go doesn’t seem to offer as many features as Mirage and Focus (most notably the addition of 6DoF tracking), Oculus will probably hope to use a lower price point (around $200) to attract those entry-level ones. VR users who may have previously considered buying Gear VR or Google Daydream for mobile VR experiences.
Similar to other standalone headphones like the Mirage and Focus, the Go controller will offer 3DoF tracking. Much simpler than current Rift motion controllers, the Go controller aligns itself closely with existing Daydream or Gear VR options. Go will have its own game library, but will also offer support at launch for many of the existing Gear VR titles.

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