I’ve just received one of the new Acer mixed reality headsets (Dev Preview) that is designed for Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mixed Reality. I’ve been looking for sometime for a suitable computer to use with such a headset, but can’t quite find the right solution. This got me thinking that it could be an opportunity for Eve to jump on the VR band wagon and design the ultimate VR rig.
I’m currently torn between:
A high end gaming laptop (17") which is powerful enough to be future proof e.g. Something with a GTX 1080MQ dGPU like the Acer Predator 17 x, the ASUS Zephyrus G501 or Dell Alienware 17R4.
A smaller more portable laptop, which I may need to upgrade in 2years e.g. Dell Alienware 13 R3 or Razer Blade 14
A backpack mounted VR system which allows for freedom of movement like the MSI VR One
These systems are at the high end of my budget, ca $2500.
I’ve considered desktop systems as well since they are expandable and offer the best performance, but portability is important to me.
I like the VR One, but I am not sure about the practicality of a system without a display in terms of launching a VR environment or game, though I’ve seen you could RDP into the device to achieve this from a second mobile device.
So what do you think? An Eve VR which is portable, expandable, offers untethered VR experience, is powerful, supports various VR / Mixed reality headsets, offers decent battery life, at a reasonable price.
My thinking was that EVE might take 1-2 years to bring such a solution to market, based on the development time and time to get to production for the V. By then VR will be much more mainstream. Focusing on a niche is not necessarily a bad thing if it is a profitable niche. The problem with sticking with the mainstream is there is much more competition.
One of the ideas I thought of was to have a laptop design that could be docked into a backpack for cable free VR. While you could in theory do that with current VR ready laptops most don’t have the thermal design to be worn on the back without you getting a really warm back, neck etc. The VR One vents air to the side.
In this design the dGPU could be a module in the backpack with additional batteries to power the dGPU/laptop. The connection to the dGPU should be via PCIe to allow for the best performance. The laptop itself could then be smaller and used without a dGPU as a general purpose machine. If the mobile dGPU in the backpack could be upgradable that would be even better, and generate additional revenue streams for EVE. If the laptop itself were upgradable (SSD, Memory, CPU?) then it would be a really future proof solution.
The dGPU could either be removable and used on a desktop for regular gaming, or EVE could offer a separate desktop graphics accelerator.
Good feedback. I should have perhaps been clearer regarding the terminology. The idea was a computing device to support the new range of mixed reality headsets from Microsoft partners. Mixed reality is the combination of holographic images and the physical world. VR is one end of the spectrum which completely occludes the real world and has no sensors to detect the real world like occlus rift. The HTC Vive already has some sensing capabilities to map the real world so is sort of mixed reality. Pure AR doesn’t occlude the real world, but digital objects don’t have any awareness of the physical space e.g. Pokémon Go. Some technologies can map a single plane i.e. the floor like Apple AR Kit.
Of course mixed reality can be achieved with a self contained computing device like HoloLens or with a more traditional computing device and a separate head mounted display / sensors like those from Microsoft partners.
While self contained AR glasses from EVE would be cool I suspect it would still require at lot of scientific research and invention, which I don’t see as EVE’s strength. EVE design great products using off the shelf components.
ODG did recently announce their lower cost R8/R9 Android based glasses so the technology may become mainstream in the next few years.
So back to my idea for a modular computing unit that can be worn on the back and supports various mixed reality headsets. Having a design that allows a traditional laptop to be docked into a backpack would provide a good transitional solution while the future of the mixed reality computing paradigm is being formed.
None of the current designs are really future proof. Self contained devices like HoloLens will need to be replaced quickly as technology advances. Current VR laptops are out of date as soon as the next Gen dGPUs are released.
So having a modular system where you can just upgrade the dGPU or head mounted display would be great. Ideally you’d be able to update the CPU, RAM and storage separately as well.
I hadn’t even thought about a desktop case as an option. That would certainly allow you to upgrade components. A couple of thoughts:
Desktop cases include the PSU, which adds unnecessary weight. I’d rather see the an external PSU like most laptops
Power draw for most desktop components would be high and require huge batteries, therefore more weight. Laptop components would offer better battery life.
Heat vents need to be carefully placed to expelled hot air to the sides.
One option might be something like the new Intel Compute Card docked to a backpack which houses upgradable dGPU and swappable batteries. Eve could also produce a laptop dock with screen and keyboard for every day use. I don’t know if such a compute card would be powerful enough for mixed reality, but maybe Eve could work with Intel on the specs.
Agree the current proposed compute cards aren’t up to the task with Y Series CPUs and only 4GB RAM. Also you can’t upgrade the memory and storage independently.
However the idea of separating the compute, memory, storage from graphics processor, display and I/O is interesting since it allows you upgrade just to components you want over time and avoids waste.
A modular system for high end computing/gaming would need to be bigger, more the size of a DVD expansion bay in a laptop and seems to be a gap in the market at the moment.
Have you played VR recently? When it’s an actual game on a good (not 1080p or phone mount) headset, it’s pretty exciting. It won’t replace traditional gaming any time soon, but to call it dead in such an early stage of development just shows ignorance to the gaming industry and growing technologies.
Also, VR has more progress than AR in my opinion. AND companies tend to prolong the usage and implementation of technology like VR till they can milk the population out of a lot of money. And VR is too young to be ignored by them already.
Don’t forget that AR also requires games unique to the system. One of the draws for Oculus Rift development in the early days was the possibility for almost any game to be capable of working in a headset, including cross-platform titles that already target the majority of players.
So I recently got an Acer Mixed Reality headset and opted for a Dell Alienware 13 r3 to drive it. I haven’t tried the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to compare, but I but the experience is amazing. To be clear there are not that many games or apps yet but HoloTour shows the potential. Microsoft announced they are working on StreamVR support which should add lots of VR games.
Linking back to the original post I’ve tried the headset in sitting and standing mode. In standing mode the inside out tracking does a pretty good job of preventing you from leaving the defined play space, and but the cable tethering you to the PC detracts from the experience. Some kind of wearable VR PC would be awesome.
I’m borrowing a HoloLens from work right now and the ability to walk around free from cables is great. The HoloLens is however not the same immersive experience you get with a mixed reality headset.
With Hololens you see holograms in a frame in your field of vision, a bit like looking through a letterbox. That’s not to say it’s not amazing seeing hologram positioned in your physical world, but immerse apps like Holotours are a bit strange.
In addition Hololens can’t produce true black as it can only add light.
Developers really need to create different kinds of experiences from VR for Hololens. Roboraiders is perhaps a great example of a true mixed reality app.