Let the stand-alone wars begin…
Stand-alone VR. It’s the dream of any immersive technology enthusiast. A 100% wireless headset capable of providing immersive and engaging VR content without the need of an external PC or mobile device to operate.
As cool as high-end headsets such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift may be, there’s nothing quite like the freedom of quickly and easily hopping into an untethered VR experience. And avoiding the additional costs such as powerful smartphones or expensive gaming PC’s isn’t too shabby either.
It’s for these exact reasons that VR fans have been so excited for the release of headsets like Lenovo’s Mirage Solo or the Oculus Go, the latest VR headsets to hit the market from two of the most prominent names in VR hardware manufacturing today. We had the opportunity to sit down, or in some cases stand up, with both of these new products to develop an honest breakdown of each of their strengths and weaknesses:
A solid piece of hardware with a truly impressive ergonomic design, the Oculus Go may very well be one of the most comfortable headset ever conceived. Featuring a set of easily adjustable straps on the side and over the top of your head, the Oculus Go provides excellent support during sudden, fast movements as well as extreme levels of comfort thanks to face-padding so soft it would make a cloud jealous.
This additional padding also does an excellent job of surrounding the entirety of the users peripheral vision, blocking out light pollution for an even more immersive experience. Those with glasses will also benefit from the devices insanely useful “glasses spacer,” which comes included with the headset upon purchase. In fact the only thing more comfortable than the actual headset is the controller.
Of course we can’t forget about the sheer convenience of the device, dropping users into VR within seconds of strapping into the headset as well as making personal files, such as your movies and music, very easy to access.
However, despite all of these additional amenities and useful upgrades, the Oculus Go still manages to shoot itself in the foot by offering only limited 3-degrees-of-freedom tracking. This means that simple actions such as stepping forward or even leaning, features which can make-or-break an immersive experience, are completely off the table. So while the Oculus Go may benefit from an insanely comfortable design as well as access to the well-supported Oculus Store, the device still feels like only a sample of true VR. But for just $200, can you really complain?
LENOVO MIRAGE SOLO
Yet another addition to the ever-growing Daydream platform, the Lenovo Mirage Solo is the first entirely stand-alone VR headset released in the U.S. to support 6-degrees-of-freedom tracking via Google’s Worldsense technology. This is a big deal, seeing as your only other options for 6Dof wireless VR would require a headset like the Vive, a VR-ready PC, external trackers, as well as a 3rd party wireless adapter – the total cost of which might make you shed a few tears.
Of course all of these perks aren’t without their fair share of limitations. One of the most glaring of which being the Solo’s unfortunate physical design. The headset, while visually appealing, is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve had in VR to-date. The plastic support sits oddly, and even with some slight adjustments to the display distance using the devices adjustment button located on the bottom of the headset, I still found a noticeable amount of light leak intruding on my experience. When I did finally manage to find a usable position with the back of the headset resting lightly on the crown of my head, the device became loose, and was unable to keep up during fast moments.
Then there’s the controller. A near identical counterpart to that of its cousin on the Daydream View, the controller included with the Solo is only capable of 3DoF. This makes for a very confusing experience when paired with a headset capable of 6DoF. I found myself desperate to reach out with my controller to actually touch and grab to interact, rather than simply point and shoot.
Even with a less-than-stellar physical design, by providing a mobile, stand-alone option for $400, Lenovo is in a position to dominate the standalone market with the only 6DoF capable headset. That is of course until HTC’s own answer to tetherless, 6DoF VR, the Vive Focus, finally goes on sale later this fall worldwide.
In the end, these two devices both reflect the very best and worst of each other. The Oculus Go, while extremely comfortable, lacks the true immersiveness that comes from 6DoF. The Mirage Solo on the other hand excels with its use of this very technology, but could take more than few lessons from the Oculus Go on comfort. At times it’s almost poetic.
So who exactly comes out on top in this standalone duel for the ages? Well, in a sense, no one. Each headset serves a unique purpose which the other simply can’t hope to replicate without significant, and expensive, redesigns. The Oculus Go’s cozy design and ability to easily access personal files makes it the perfect VR companion for any type of travel. However it’s lack of 6DoF adds a noticeable dip in immersion during certain experiences and games. The Lenovo is on the opposite end of the spectrum, offering impressive standalone room-scale (with the right adjustments to the safety parameters), but virtually no form of leisurely VR thanks to an obstructive design that makes it impossible to even rest your head comfortably.