An Introduction To Windows Mixed Reality
Samsung ships the Odyssey headset in a white box with a plastic form-fitted insert that holds the headset and controllers firmly in place. The headset and controllers come wrapped in foam bags for a little bit of added protection against scratches and dust. The box also includes a manual and warranty information booklet.
Aside from the transparent lenses and the Windows Mixed Reality logo, every inch of Samsung’s Odyssey headset is black. The faceplate is a reflective glossy plastic material, the body and head strap are matte plastic, and the foam padding is wrapped in a black faux-leather material.
The Samsung Odyssey headset is also--so far at least--the biggest Windows MR HMD that we’ve encountered. It’s about the same size as the HTC Vive with the Deluxe Audio Head Strap (DAS) installed. The HMD body is comparable in width and depth to the Acer Windows Mixed Reality HMD, but the body of the Odyssey is nearly twice as tall as Acer’s headset. The large body and rigid head strap also tip the scales as the heaviest Mixed Reality headset that we’ve encountered, at 644g (1.42 pounds). The Vive with a DAS installed is roughly the same weight, though. So the Odyssey is alone in its bulkiness.
The large volume inside the visor houses the dual AMOLED panels and the mechanical bits for the adjustable interpupillary distance (IPD) lens system. Unlike the Acer and Lenovo Windows Mixed Reality HMDs, which feature fixed IPD lenses, Samsung’s headset allows you to set the width of the lenses to match the distance between your pupils. The Odyssey headset accommodates pupil spacing between 60mm and 72mm, which is relatively standard for HMDs with adjustable IPD. The Oculus Rift supports 58mm to 72mm adjustments, and the HTC Vive supports 60.8mm to 74.6mm. The fixed IPD of the Acer and Lenovo HMDs is 60mm. Samsung installed a dial on the bottom of the visor to adjust the lens spacing.
Personally, given that my IPD is 62, this reviewer found the adjustable IPD made a negligible difference. However, if your eyes are farther apart (or closer together) than the fixed 60mm of Acer and Lenovo’s headsets, you’ll definitely want to invest in a headset that lets you adjust the lenses to your eye spacing.
The taller 1440x1600-pixel panels in the Odyssey headset should theoretically produce a taller vertical field of view (FOV) than other HMDs, but none of the Windows MR HMD makers discloses a vertical FOV figure. The Samsung Odyssey boasts a 110-degree horizontal FOV, which is on par with the Lenovo Explorer and HTC Vive, and 10 degrees wider than the Acer Windows MR headset and the Oculus Rift.
Like all Windows Mixed Reality headsets, the front faceplate of the Odyssey headset features two cameras for room and controller tracking. The cameras are mounted on the lower half of the headset, approximately 1.5 inches from the other outer edges. Samsung oriented the cameras toward the floor and to either side at slight angles to maximize the volume that they can monitor.
Acer and Lenovo both installed the camera mounts in plastic housings that protrude from the faces of their headsets. The Samsung Odyssey has a beveled faceplate with embedded cameras, which makes for a sleeker appearance. It would be hard to quantify how resilient that design is without risking damage to our test equipment, but we believe that Samsung’s design would hold up better to bumps and drops. Also, the camera housing on Acer's and Lenovo’s headsets are separate pieces, which could, in theory, break if treated poorly. The faceplate on Samsung’s headset is all one piece, so you would have to drop it quite hard to break it apart.
That's Not A Hinge
The Acer and Lenovo Windows MR headsets both feature flip visors, which we enjoy for the convenience, but we worry that their hinges might fail prematurely. Samsung avoided running into hinge-related warranty issues by not including a hinge at all. In place of the hinge, Samsung installed a spring-loaded relief system that enables you to pull the visor away from your face if you need to see your surroundings. The PlayStation VR HMD has a similar mechanism, but Samsung’s design doesn’t have a release button like Sony’s.
The Samsung Odyssey headset features a rigid halo-style head strap system with a mechanical adjustment. This seems to be the standard solution for Windows Mixed Reality headsets. The forehead section of the head strap features a large cushion that helps distribute the weight of the HMD evenly. The adjustment mechanism is a dial located on the rear section of the head strap. Turning the dial left to extends the head band, while turning it right to tightens it. When you tighten the dial, you’ll hear a satisfying ratcheting sound. When you loosen it, you’ll hear a single click, and then it should rotate without resistance. The mechanism here doesn't include a quick-release button to release the tension.
Every HMD that we’ve tested so far includes removable and replaceable foam face cushions, and the Samsung Odyssey is no exception. However, most of the time, the cushions are mounted directly to the rigid frame of the HMD. Samsung’s design features an extra level of comfort in the form of a rubber gasket between the plastic body and the foam cushion. The rubber gasket is soft and malleable, which should theoretically allow the headset to fit comfortably on practically anyone’s face. That said, in practice the visor is mounted too far out from the headband to make the rubber gasket matter at all.
When we put the Odyssey on, the face cushion barely touched our cheeks. As a result, we noticed a little bit of light bleed from the sides. Samsung’s product designers had the forethought to include a pair of rubber flaps to keep the light from coming in around your nose, but they failed to design a system that pulls the visor snug to your face. We would prefer a snug fit on our cheeks and no flaps on our nose in an HMD that lacks a flip visor. We often use the nose gap in our Rift as a quick-and-dirty way to see the real world when we need to reach for our keyboard or an un-tracked controller. To see our surroundings while wearing the Odyssey, we had to pull the visor away from our face with the relief system.
Integrated Audio System
When Oculus released the Rift, we learned first-hand the benefit of integrated audio on a VR headset. With built-in speakers, you don’t need to juggle an extra device on your head, and you have one less cable to tangle around yourself. And a built-in microphone ensures that you always have access to voice communication.
Microsoft’s basic Windows Mixed Reality HMD reference design doesn’t include headphones or a microphone, which is silly given that Cortana is woven into the Windows Mixed Reality platform and requires a certified headset to work properly. Most of Microsoft’s headset partners stuck close to the reference configuration and didn’t include headphones or a microphone. Samsung is seemingly the only Windows MR partner that took audio seriously. It installed not one, but two Cortana-compatible array microphones on the Odyssey, as well as a pair of AKG headphones with 3D spatial audio technology.
The headphones feature multiple adjustment points that should enable a comfortable fit for anyone. You can move the speakers up and down with approximately 15mm of range. You can also swing the headphones forward or back across approximately a 40-degree range. And the headphones are on ball-joint swivels, so they should sit flat across anyone’s ears.
The AKG headphones are only 2.25” in diameter, but they deliver ample volume, and the sound that they produce is crisp and clear. We wouldn’t recommend operating them at full blast unless you want hearing damage. Fortunately, you can adjust the sound levels with the built-in volume controls found on the bottom right of the visor.
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