Lenovo Explorer and Windows Mixed Reality Review

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Introduction:

For years now, there has been a promise in the tech industry of virtual reality, but for many of those years, the devices have been expensive and required special setups for full functionality. Microsoft decided to enter the fray, first with the very expensive (and impressive) Hololens, but the company has since expanded its Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) platform. This platform not only consists of a software platform, but thanks to partnerships with multiple OEMs, has resulted in the creation of multiple Windows Mixed Reality headsets that all work with the platform, and with the same controllers for that matter. Well, shortly after it was announced that WMR would support the SteamVR platform, I tried reaching out to those OEMs, and as the title of this review suggests, I had some success, specifically with Lenovo loaning one of their units to me for this review.

Lenovo’s Mixed Reality Headset is called the Explorer, and like the other WMR headsets, it uses an ‘inside-out’ tracking system. This means that instead of using external beacons or sensors to track position and movement, the headset itself holds the sensors to track its movement, and cameras to capture the positions of the controllers by catching where their halos of LEDs are. This allows the headset and controllers to work whether you are just sitting or standing in one location, or enjoying a room-scale experience. The controllers connect to computers over Bluetooth while the headset uses HDMI and USB 3.0 for video, power, data, and audio.

Being the Windows Mixed Reality platform, it has support for various applications and games in the Microsoft Store, but I think everyone recognizes support for other platforms, such as SteamVR, will be necessary for success. Currently SteamVR support is in beta, and this is what I attribute the crashes to. Other issues I have encountered would likely have other explanations, so I cannot set them aside so easily.

While I have worked with some of the Microsoft Store applications, most of my time has been spent in SteamVR games. More specifically, GORN, Scanner Sombre, and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. GORN is an arena combat game, so there is some personal movement, and thus is meant as a room-scale experience. Scanner Sombre can be enjoyed while seated, but its VR experience is also technically in beta. Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope can be enjoyed while seated, and I will say I have been enjoying it, so I have spent the most time in it thus far. I will say right now that even though the SteamVR support is in beta and it was not flawless, it still worked very well.

I think that is enough for an introduction, save stating I do not have a very good camera, so I am unable to provide high quality images of the Explorer or controllers. At least I can fall back on the point that when in use, you do not actually see these devices anyway.

On to the review!