At the Surface event in October, Microsoft announced a brand-new VR imitative; one which would bring all of its OEMs together to build low-cost affordable VR headsets that work with Windows Holographic.
Lenovo is now showing what it has created, at CES. It’s a prototype, and it is tethered – not wireless. There’s no name, but there are a few details that are interesting.
Since these head-mounted devices are for Windows, they are in direct competition with the best – HTC Vive and Oculus Rift; Lenovo, however, expects its headset to be in retail at the price of $400 or less. That’s what will make VR affordable for the masses.
At the face of it, it looks quite strange – as every prototype does; there is a pair of cameras on the front of the HMD; the sole purpose is to map depth information – that’s how it determines its place in the world around it.
The addition of two cameras make mixed reality – or AR – applications a certain possibility, depending on the quality of these cameras; but they clearly serve a bigger purpose for the inside-out tracking.
Since the two cameras can map depth information and can use that for tracking, they don’t require external positioning equipment like the Vive’s laser lighthouses or Rift’s IR cameras. This gives Lenovo an advantage, as the headset is a lot simpler to set up and there are fewer parts that could break.
On the inside, the headset uses two 1440 x 1440 OLED panels – that’s better than both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Unfortunately, the prototype isn’t usable, so it can’t be tested; VR has a lot more variables that affect its quality, so a higher resolution display can still result in worse overall VR quality.
The prototype’s design looks oddly similar to the HoloLens; per Lenovo, the target weight for the final product is 350 grams – compare that with Vive’s 555 grams and Rift’s 469 grams, and you will see why that might be impressive.
The Windows 10 Creators Update is going to bring much of the support needed for these HMDs, but Lenovo doesn’t have a solid date for when the device will be available.
Lenovo’s prototype is lighter, cheaper, and has a higher resolution display than the existing top-tier competition – it even requires less set up; it is, however, unusable.
Lenovo also isn’t alone in this; thanks to Microsoft, there’s a bunch of other OEMs working on similar HMDs – the VR market will soon become saturated, and that’s when competition begins.