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Mixed Reality Headsets

mixed reality headsets

By now, most people have experienced some form of Virtual or Augmented Reality (AR/VR) in their day to day lives – either through gaming, work, phone apps or even watching football commentary on TV. However, the same cannot be said for experiencing Mixed Reality (MR). Why?…because until recently, there have not been many Mixed Reality headsets available in the marketplace. As that premise changes, you will need to understand the difference between different MR headset technology and how to choose the headset that best fits your needs.

SphereGen has been working with Mixed Reality for 7 years. This blog will talk about what we have experienced with the top MR headsets in the market. Our goal is to provide you with enough information to make informed decisions when considering the purchase of an MR headset.

Before we begin, let’s talk about the basics.

What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed Reality or MR, is a technology that blends the physical and digital worlds to create an environment where virtual and real objects can coexist and interact in real-time. This is achieved by overlaying digital information, images, and 3D objects onto the user’s real-world environment, creating a hybrid reality where the user can interact with both the real and virtual objects simultaneously.

The concept of Mixed Reality became most popular when Microsoft introduced the HoloLens headset in 2016. The HoloLens uses a combination of sensors, cameras, and holographic projection technology to create Mixed Reality experiences.

Since then, Mixed Reality has been embraced by many players in the market, including Meta, Magic Leap, Byte Dance and in the near future, Apple. Each company has developed its own headset and platform, which offer unique Mixed Reality features and capabilities. As you continue reading, you will learn the differences between these headsets and their technologies.

man collaborating with woman using hololens 2

Important Features in MR Headsets

Tethered vs Untethered

There are several types of MR headsets in the market because each headset is designed for different use cases and user preferences. Mixed Reality headsets can be broadly classified into two categories: tethered and untethered.

Tethered headsets are directly connected to a computer or gaming console and rely on the computing power of the connected device to generate the Mixed Reality experience. These headsets typically offer higher-quality graphics and a wider field of view, but they are less mobile as they require a cable connection to the required operating platform.

Untethered headsets are stand-alone devices, therefore they do not require a computer or gaming console to operate. They are self-contained and rely on internal CPU and sensors to start the Mixed Reality experience. These headsets are more mobile and convenient to use, however they may offer lower-quality graphics and a narrower field of view, as they are less powerful than desktop or laptop computers. When considering an MR headset for a work environment, untethered headsets are the best fit as users can work hands-free while experiencing a visual display.

Projected Visualization vs Pass Through Visualization

*Pass Through is also referred to as VST – Video See Through

For earlier Mixed Reality headsets such as the HoloLens and Magic Leap, the technology projects virtual objects onto the physical world. A transparent visor allows a true view of the physical real world, while virtual objects are projected directly onto the user’s field of view, creating a true Mixed Reality experience. This technology enables virtual objects to interact with real-world objects, providing an immersive and seamless experience for the user.

Projected Headsets use a type of display technology which projects light onto the user’s eyes through a series of mirrors and other optical components. This technology was designed to create a large field of view while minimizing the weight and size of the headset. While the view of the physical world is crystal clear due to the transparent visor, the holographic or virtual images display in a lower resolution.

Headsets which offer a Mixed Reality experience using pass-through visualization use a very different technology. Pass-through headsets use cameras to video capture the real-world environment. This digitized capture is streamed to the user with virtual objects projected onto it, creating a different Mixed Reality experience. While the viewing is almost instantaneous, there is some latency as the visual stream must be processed and adjusted before being displayed to the user.

For the purposes of this article, the Pass-through headsets we are referring to are the Meta Quest Pro and the Pico 4. These headsets deliver high resolution images using Pancake lens technology. Pancake lenses are specialized curved lenses that are stacked, and light is folded as it passes through this stack. Because of these features, Pancake lenses have less distortion than traditional Fresnel lenses – in addition to being thinner and lighter which reduces the weight of the headset.

We would like to note that the Meta Quest Pro and Pico 4 are actually Virtual Reality headsets which deliver Mixed Reality experiences using Pass-through technology. At this time, the Pass-through experience is very different from the Projected technology of HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 2. When the Meta Quest Pro and Pico 4 headsets are used strictly for Virtual Reality, Pass-through technology is not engaged which results in a very different and higher quality experience.

Overview of top MR Headsets:

Overall, each headset that offers Mixed Reality has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one for you depends on your specific needs and use case. It’s important to consider factors such as display quality, comfort, and price when making your decision.

The following chart lists the features of how each of these headsets delivers a Mixed Reality experience:

Microsoft HoloLens 2:
The Microsoft HoloLens 2 is a standalone MR headset designed for enterprise and industrial use cases. The HoloLens 2 also includes a suite of enterprise-focused software and tools, such as Dynamics 365 Guides and Remote Assist.

Magic Leap 2:
The Magic Leap 2 is a tethered Mixed Reality headset designed for entertainment and gaming and a developer platform for creating new experiences. The headset’s processor is tethered to a wearable and portable Compute Pack that also reduces weight and vents heat.

Meta Quest Pro:
The Meta Quest Pro is a standalone Virtual Reality headset that also offers Mixed Reality functionality through its pass-through feature. The Quest Pro is primarily designed for gaming and entertainment use cases. Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Plus processor.

Pico 4:
The PICO 4 is a standalone Virtual Reality headset that also offers Mixed Reality experiences through pass through features. The headset is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor.


HoloLens 2

hololens 2 headset

Magic Leap 2

magic leap 2 headset

Quest Pro

Quest Pro headset

Pico 4

pico 4 headset

Visualization TypeProjectedProjectedPass Through MRPass Through MR
Resolution in pixels per eye2048 x 10801440 x 17601800 x 19202160 x 2160
Field of View52 degrees70 degrees105 degrees105 degrees
Hand TrackingYesYesYesYes; more limited than other MR headsets
ControllersNone – Hands free6 degrees of Freedom (6DoF) haptic motion controller6 degrees of Freedom (6DoF) haptic motion controller6 degrees of Freedom (6DoF) haptic motion controller
Eye TrackingYesYesYes Yes
Voice RecognitionComes with the headset for system controls; can be built into custom appsComes with the headset for system controls; can be built into custom appsComes with the headset for system controls but only in the US and only in English; can be built into custom appsCan be built into custom apps
Refresh Rate90HZ120HZ90HZ90HZ
Headset Weight566g260g722g586g
Headset Price$3500$3299$1000$500
Overall ComfortComfortableLightweight and comfortableHeavier than other headsetsComfortable
Software LibraryBusiness and entertainment appsEntertainment and business appsWide range of games and appsLimited app and game selection
Any Other Drawbacks as an MR Headset?*Price is high
*Can be heavy if worn for a long time period
*Price is high
*Lower overall resolution than other headsets
*Pass through view is distorted
* Pass through display of the physical environment can be uncomfortable for some
*Lower resolution in MR experience
*Requires a Meta account
*Pass through view is distorted
* Pass through display of the physical environment can be uncomfortable for some
*Lower resolution in MR experience
*Limited developer support

Mixed Reality Business Use cases

When considering the importance of Mixed Reality in the market today and in the future, it is important to realize the many uses of MR beyond just entertainment and gaming. Below are just some of the business use cases for which Mixed Reality is a perfect fit.

Simulated and Guided Training
MR is used across industries for simulated training purposes. The difference between Virtual and Mixed Reality simulations is that with MR, virtual images can be overlaid on physical objects. This allows trainees to run through guided training on actual equipment.

Beyond training, MR is being used in healthcare for patient education or informed patient consent. 3D models of patient anatomy allow doctors to visualize and plan surgeries more accurately. Patients are provided with immersive and interactive information about their conditions and treatments.

In manufacturing, MR is used to create simulations of assembly lines and production processes. These simulations are used to optimize workflows and identify potential issues before they occur. MR is used in service and maintenance calls by providing workers with visual aids and instructions, improving efficiency, and reducing errors.

Mixed Reality is being used in education to create interactive and immersive three-dimensional learning experiences for better knowledge retention.

Construction or Engineering
In construction and engineering, users see 3D models of buildings and structures, allowing designers and engineers to visualize and test designs before construction begins. Mixed Reality can also be used to assist with construction tasks, such as providing workers with step-by-step instructions or overlaying safety information onto the real-world environment. Mixed Reality is a rapidly growing field with many potential applications across a wide range of industries, from gaming and entertainment to education, healthcare, and manufacturing. As more companies invest in MR technology and develop new use cases and applications, the potential for Mixed Reality to transform the way we interact with digital content and the world around us continues to grow. This technology is only going to keep getting better. Oculus and Apple have updates coming in the next year, along with promises from Microsoft of a HoloLens 3. Make sure you try out the latest technologies in Mixed Reality to understand their true value. If you have any questions, we would be happy to help!

About SphereGen

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SphereGen is a unique solutions provider that specializes in cloud-based applications, Intelligent Automation, and Extended Reality (AR/VR/MR). We offer full-stack custom application development to help customers employ innovative technology to solve business problems.

Learn more about what we do in XR: https://www.spheregen.com/extended-reality

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