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Acer’s mixed reality Windows headset is a thrill ride standing still

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ACER has been showing off its forthcoming mixed reality headset for Windows 10 and the INQUIRER has been having a play at being Lawnmower Man.

Unlike many headsets, the unit, as yet unnamed, requires no external sensors, just a USB 3.0 port and an HDMI output.

After inputting your height (thankfully not your weight) you’re invited to create a space to show Windows 10 Holographic what the boundaries you’ll be using are. It’s worth nothing that this space is limited by the cables – this is not a wireless affair.

The payoff though is that it is incredibly thin and light and it doesn’t take long to feel very comfortable in exploring your environment.

In our demonstration, we were taken to the “Clifftop House” which had been kitted out with windows containing wall-mounted and floating screens showing anything from email to a Groove Music interface.

Down a few steps is a cinema, currently showing your Xbox One games but it can be adjusted to show whatever video content you choose.

Hitting the ‘Y’ button creates a portal allowing you to beam to another part of the room without all that pesky walking.

There’s also a library of objects in vivid colours, ranging from a puppy who will sit up and beg on command, to an inexplicable rainbow that you can drop in the middle of the floor. Stare down at the ocean and you may even see a flying fish.

All the headset controls, including the focus, are adjustable and although there is an issue with the foam surround being a bit sweaty, it’s still one of the clearest experiences we’ve had in the VR world.

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Once you get your head around the idea that your head movement and eye-tracking is part of the control mechanism, you have the flexibility to start manipulating the world around you.

But the real light-bulb moment comes from watching 360-degree videos. We were able to stand in the middle of a pitched battle between warring aliens, stopping only to look up at the vibrant colours of the sky. It’s all something of an adrenalin rush.

The demonstration was part of a day of product showcases laid on by Acer to give us a chance to see the entire range for 2016/17, recently launched at an event in New York.

This includes the Predator gaming range with AeroBlade 3D fan, Liquid Loop cooling and eye-tracking technology, the 4K Colossus Projector, the stylish Swift range that offers premium ultrabook specs for a fraction of the price of Huawei’s recently launched MateBook series. We’ve actually pinched the Swift 7 to write this review.

The Aspire range has been updated in a range of colours, as has the Switch range of convertibles which are Skype certified so you can rabbit endlessly and offer support for Windows Hello biometrics via a fingerprint sensor.

The headset still has some kinks to be worked out – not least of all accidentally porting ourselves into the middle of the sea, which shouldn’t be possible. And make no mistake, the idea of “mixed reality” in this case at least, doesn’t offer opportunities to overlay objects on the real world – it’s halfway between AR and VR, in that sense, but it was still a phenomenal experience and at the right price point it could be the missing link between price and mass adoption.

Developer editions like the one we’ve tried have already shipped to developers across the world in the hope of content being ready for a release before year end.

The headset has no specific release date and pricing remains an elephant in the room, but is said to be priced aggressively against the likes of Oculus Rift and HoloLens (we’ve heard $300, but Acer won’t confirm or deny it). µ

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