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Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality (WMR)

Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 6:41 pm
by Tril
Not too long ago, Microsoft renamed their Windows Holographic platform to Windows Mixed Reality with the announcement of new products coming out later this year for developers. The platform is now split in two with Hololens and Immersive headsets.

Microsoft is not taking preorders for developpers interested in the HP and Acer Windows Mixed Reality headsets to be released around August. From looking at the specs and pictures, the only differences are in the tightening mechanism and colors.

VR and mixed reality headsets

Device support
stationary frame of reference, Both
Attached frame of reference, Both
Stage frame of reference, Immersive headsets only
Spatial anchors, Both
Spatial mapping, HoloLens only
Gaze, Both
Gesture, HoloLens only
Voice input, Both but needs a mic with the immersive headsets
Motion controller, Immersive headsets only
Spatial sound, Both but needs headphones with the immersive headsets

The immersive headsets are missing gesture and spatial mapping, they don't have a mic and don't have headphones. When I first saw the pictures of the headsets, I thought they would have spatial mapping and gesture support because the black band between the cameras look like it could be hiding a sensor like an Intel RealSense camera.

The Hololens is Wireless with an mobile cpu. The immersive headsets are connected to a pc like a Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

The Hololens is see through. The immersive headsets are closed like an HMD.

The immersive headsets use inside-out tracking. That means they use sensors such as cameras, accelerometers and gyros to estimate the position and orientation of the headsets without external cameras. That could cause drift over time but we'll have to try it to see.

On the HoloLens, when you render black with an alpha of zero (transparent), those pixels are kept transparent so you can see your surroundings. The HoloLens also has cameras that can be used to capture photos and videos.

The immersive headsets have two cameras on the front. At this point it's not clear if they are only used for inside-out tracking. It would be nice to be able pass transpared black and have the headset replace that with live camera feed. It would also be nice to be able to capture photos and video.

Windows also released a free update for Windows 10 called Creators update. Bundled with it comes a tool called Mixed Reality Portal. It's used to setup a Windows Reality Device. If you don't have one and are a developer, you can put it in simulator mode and test your apps with a simulated device.

One thing that looks nice is that the headset flips up. That might come in handy for developers with glasses such as myself. When I develop for Oculus Rift, I usually end up removing my glasses to do a quick test and I have to put them back to continue to program afterwards.

I preordered one to give a try to the Microsoft Mixed Reality platform as a developer. The available information is too scarce at this point to know how the products will hold out compared to other available products. I'll have to try it to see. I'll be able to compare it to my Oculus Rift. I'll also try the Mixed Reality Portal in simulator mode while waiting for my headset.

Re: Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality (WMR)

Posted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:13 am
by Tril
I received the hp developer model today and did some quick testing. I've also got an Oculus Rift so that's what I'll compare against. Keep in mind that this is a developer model so they may improve the design before releasing a commercial model.

Microsoft uses the term mixed reality to have a common term that fits both augmented reality and virtual reality. This is a virtual reality headset. The cameras on the front of the headset used for inside out tracking are about 120 mm apart. You can't capture what they see from what I could find and even if you could, it would not work to use them to make augmented reality because the cameras are too far apart. I was hoping that it could do AR like the Vrvana Totem but it can't.

The tracking works well. I tried it in the evening with low light and it worked without issues.

The visible area in the middle from the FOV looks like a perfect circle and it's perfectly black outside that circle.

Comfort and fit
Comfort and fit need to be improved in my opinion. I tried a few different angles and tightness. The Oculus Rift is more comfortable. It's hard to correctly adjust in the sweet spot without too much tension and without contact with the nose. If you look at the Oculus Rift lenses, they are not round, they have a flat spot on the bottom inside edge to give more room for the nose. The hp lenses are close to a perfect circle. They thinned the plastic ring holding it in place near the nose to leave more room but it's not quite enough for me. On the Oculus Rift, I like to adjust the strap at the back on the head low. It's not possible to go that low on the hp model because of the design.

The sweet spot is small so correct positioning matters. The mask part needs to be tight against the face to keep the whole screen in perfect focus and that leads to low airflow and it's bound to fog. I also have that issue on the Oculus Rift but I can reduce it by slightly angling it up to leave a small air gap at the bottom while still keeping it in focus. There's a software ipd adjustment but no mechanical adjustment on the lenses.

Developer tools
You have to install the latest Unity beta, the latest Windows 10 Insider build and the latest HoloToolkit-Unity and there's still some issues. It too new so the software is not quite ready yet. It's going to get better in the next few weeks, months. The interesting thing about the mixed reality apis and libraries from Microsoft is that you can almost program for a virtual reality and augmented reality device the same way. So later, when there's more devices available, it will be easy for a developer to make both versions of the same app with minimal effort.