The Mirage Solo is now available, a year after Lenovo Mirage Solo was announced at Google’s 2017 developer conference. Next year, I believe more headsets use in-headset camera-based tracking. The future belongs to where the Mirage Solo and Google are going. But Oculus, Google, Microsoft, HTC and many others are all going there. Right now isn’t the best time to buy a headset to use it, unless you’re really, really curious. Limited Warranty period (parts): 1 year, Limited Warranty period (labor): 1 year.
Some Nice Features Lenovo Mirage Solo
Lenovo Mirage Solo Throwback controller
The other drawback is the included controller. It’s the same point-and-click, three-degree-of-freedom motion controller that comes with Google’s step-down Daydream View, and while it’s fine for basic interactions, has a clickable trackpad and volume controls, and can even be used to do things like cast fishing rods and “grab” objects, it lacks more advanced spatial tracking to match what the headset can do (6DOF, meaning actually accurately tracking the controllers in 3D space with the cameras).
The Oculus Go has a similar type of controller, but since I can’t move around with Go, I found the simple point-and-click design fit better. With Mirage Solo, the simple controls ended up feeling limited, and even drifting a bit in tracking (pressing a button on the controller re-centers it, but it’s annoying). I’d love to see this headset get a wider range of motion, and also let me use two controllers with more accuracy and manipulation, like the Oculus Touch’s controllers. But that future isn’t here yet.
VR, cutting the cord Lenovo Mirage Solo
The Mirage Solo looks like a VR headset you’d use on a desktop PC, or even the PlayStation VR: a padded display with lenses, attached to an adjustable visor ($237.64 at Amazon.com) you tighten around your head. Much like most Microsoft Mixed Reality VR headsets released last year, the Mirage Solo has a similar design. It even looks a bit like Lenovo’s PC-connected wired VR headset.
Mirage Solo is totally standalone, but only the second device to ever be completely PC or phone-free — Oculus Go is the first. Unlike the Oculus Go, however, there isn’t even a phone app to pair with. Just plug it in, charge it up, turn it on and set it up, and you’re set.
Tomorrow’s VR, a bit too soon Lenovo Mirage Solo
VR looks like it’s all the same, but it’s changing: Soon enough, headsets will seamlessly track the whole world through their onboard cameras.
The Mirage Solo shows how well that can work, but I think this first step needs better controllers, a lower price and more apps. Google promises that 60 apps will support the added motion tracking in the Mirage Solo, and several games (Rez Infinite, Bait [a fishing game], BBC Earth Life in VR, Blade Runner Revelations) I’ve used already use it. But how many will make the leap? Google promises that existing apps could be ported easily to take advantage of the extra tracking, but the Mirage Solo literally stands alone as the only product it would be used for. Of all the many Google Daydream apps you can try on the Mirage Solo headset, there aren’t that many that support its extra motion-tracking tricks.
Will this headset track over a larger range, which Google says it could do, in theory? Will new controllers arrive? Will it maybe be able to do mixed reality, blending what the cameras see and what appears in VR? Not right now, and by the time these possibilities arrive, I bet they’ll be part of a newer, better headset.
Leaning and moving, just a bit Lenovo Mirage
The Mirage Solo’s biggest trick is tracking motion in space, something called 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF). Using motion sensors (gyro, accelerometer) plus two wide-angle cameras on the front of the headset, it can track your movement. Ducking, leaning, stepping: This is the stuff the Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR and Daydream View cannot do.
This is the first mobile headset that’s had this kind of tracking, and yes, it’s basically the same tech that’s in Microsoft’s PC-based VR headsets. No room sensors are needed. I tried it at my desk, in the office cafeteria, at my train station, outdoors and even on a train (don’t do that: vehicle motion makes the tracking drift).
Sometimes, it’s amazing. Virtual Virtual Reality is a game (also on the Oculus Go) that feels incredibly immersive. The sense of “being there” is definitely enhanced with the headset’s usually good extra camera-based tracking.
Extra perks: Google’s world of VR apps, YouTube and VR180
The headset has some extras that are helpful: a microSD card slot allows expandable storage, unlike the Oculus Go. The headset and controller charge via USB-C (one AC adapter included), which I now prefer to Micro-USB.
Google’s own selection of VR apps is really well done: YouTube is a massive repository of videos, Arts and Culture offers plenty of art exhibits to explore, Street View is a fun way to dive into checking out the world in VR and the new VR180 format of 180-degree 3D videos will work on the Mirage Solo. Lenovo is making a separate $300 Mirage Camera that shoots these 3D photos and videos. That’s not a reason to pick Google as your VR ecosystem, but it shows progress.