Lenovo Google Daydream Solo VR headset.
Only days after Facebook-owned Oculus came out with its wireless Oculus Go virtual reality headset, Lenovo, teaming up with Google, followed suit with the release of its own free-standing headset.
Both headsets ditch the cables, PC or smartphones needed to operate other virtual reality gear, requirements that have surely hampered prior efforts to get the masses to cuddle up to this cool but rather awkward experience.
But Lenovo’s Mirage Solo with Daydream is different from Oculus Go in important ways, not least of which is the price tag: Oculus Go starts at $199, the Mirage at $399.99 doubles that.
What you’re paying extra for is a leap in technology, not necessarily—in the short run anyway—more fun.
And at that price, I think it’s going to be a tough sell, especially without more content.
Still, the technology is impressive. Inside Lenovo’s hardware is a dedicated Qualcomm processor, 5.5-inch high resolution QHD display, wide field of vision, and tracking cameras and rotational sensors that support “six degrees of freedom.” Translation: while wearing the Mirage, you can lean, duck, dodge, or move in and out, with the headset detecting your position in space, lending itself to a more realistic and immersive virtual experience.
By contrast, Oculus Go supports three-degrees of freedom, which more or less limits you to head tracking.
More: Facebook’s Oculus Go ditches computer and phone in latest, $199 test of virtual reality
Oculus Go headset and controller.
CLAYTON COTTERELL/OCULUS GO
A simple game I enjoyed playing on the Mirage called Merry Snowballs from Hatrabbit Entertainment gets the point across. While you’re engaged in a virtual reality snowball fight—using the supplied controller to fire at the mean kids firing back—you can physically duck to avoid getting hit.
In a game called Bait! from Resolution, I caught fish by swinging the Daydream controller as if it was a fishing rod.
My favorite immersive experience on the Mirage, however, was as a character inside Blade Runner: Revelations from Alcon Interactive. Assuming the role of a futuristic detective, I searched for clues and interrogated (via canned responses) some of the shady characters I came across wandering around dim and rainy Los Angeles in the year 2023, with terrific graphics establishing the proper mood.
Google is also emphasizing educational content, from learning about the ecosystem of the ocean in BBC Earth: Life in VR to exploring museum masterpieces from the likes Manet, Hopper and Van Gogh in Arts & Culture VR.
And Google’s own properties get front and center treatment, including YouTube VR (cool 360-degreee videos), Google Street View (360 views of Machu Picchu, Norwegian fjords etc), Google Photos, and the Play Store.
At launch, you can access a Google Daydream library of around 350 apps, or about one-third of the experiences Oculus is making available for Oculus Go.
Lenovo is separately selling a $299.99 point-and-shoot Mirage Camera with Daydream, capable of capturing 180-degree photos, videos and live streams. It has two 13-megapixel fisheye cameras, but absent a viewfinder, you won’t know what you shot until you look through an app on your phone, or upload images and videos to Google Photos or YouTube.
You can also manually move an optional microSD card from the camera to a slot on the VR headset itself. Along these lines, a hardware hang-up: the area around the microSD slot is too narrow to easily remove the card.
Lenovo and Google Mirage virtual reality headset, camera and controller
The Mirage Solo is a white and gray plastic contraption with padding from a breathable fabric. It’s bulkier and heavier than Oculus Go, but I found it to be more comfortable just the same. I rested my forehead along a fabric pad and tightened the fit via a dial knob on the back.
You may still have to fuss a bit to get an in-focus view. And you’ll also want to plug in headphones for sound, which can get a little awkward.
Lenovo is touting about 2 ½ hours of continuous use off a full charge, about the same as the Oculus Go. If you have a Google Chromecast-compatible device, you can also “cast” what you’re seeing inside the headset onto a TV screen.
As with Oculus Go, going wireless on Mirage Solo promises to make virtual reality more appealing to the mainstream. We still need more and better content, though, and the cost, while cheaper than an elaborate PC/VR set-up remains too high.
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