MVR Ascend – tetherless VR preview

mvr-ascendLast week I was kindly invited to test some pre-production kit ahead of MVR’s Kickstarter campaign that starts tomorrow.

Virtual Reality (VR) is currently *the* hot thing right now for gamers, as well as other artists and training facilities.

The main drawback, if you already have the PC or gaming console that can power the kit, is that you need to be cabled in to the source. Both the headphones and the optics need to be plugged in to something like the PCs available from Maingear and the like or your PS 4 or Xbone.

Another important thing to factor in is the cost of these headsets. With the PlayStation VR going for £350, the Rift £550 and, what I consider to be the current benchmark, the HTC Vive £800.

So, if you have to upgrade to get in to VR and then buy a headset, I can see a very poorly bank account in your future.

VR is currently limited

I think we can take the fact that VR is not exactly cheap to get in to as read.

Yes, there is quite an investment to make if you want to give it a go but that is always the way with the latest tech. Unfortunately, not all cutting-edge tech makes the grade. Mini Discs, Laser Discs, 3D TV… all had much promise but are now cast aside.

Coughing up a whole lot of money for something that currently has limited support can be scary. We have all seen decent smartphones fall by the wayside because of the lack of apps. The PS Vita (PSP) had a very difficult time because of the slow uptake of games.

The range of tailor-made VR titles, at the moment is pretty thin on the ground. Dropping the wrong side of £500, as a PC gamer, is not something I’d do lightly.

MVR Ascend – different VR

I went to investigate what promises to be a new approach to VR. This not only promised to be more affordable, but also gives the user greater freedom thanks to wireless operation.

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The way MVR has managed to accomplish this is through using a smartphone in the visor. Before you start shouting about Gear VR and other Google Cardboard-based viewers such as those from ViewMaster and even Brian May, stay with me.

Yes, they all use your smart device but the MVR Ascend utilises this tech in a different way.

MVR Ascend – how it works

Use your Sony Xperia Android phone with the free Remote Play app to stream the PS4 to your phone and you are ready to go or, if you’re on the Xbox One, this version comes with a device so you can stream your favourite Xbox One game to your MVR Screen using Windows 10 streaming technology.

mvr-work-in-progressPC owners can use either the PS4 or Xbone versions. All we have to do is download the free Moonlight App on our smartphone.

This hands us a wireless screen for our PC. The app implements Nvidia GTX’s proprietary GameStream technology which meansu low latency wireless game play. Both the P1 and X1 controllers are compatible with the PC.

It’s also a great deal more compact than the MSI VR One backpack.

MVR Ascend – the H1 headset

The first thing I noticed about the headset was that you can flip up the visor and see the real world. Handy when you want to grab a cuppa, select another game or just give your eyes a rest without having to take the headset off.

mvr-ascend-h1The H1 has interchangeable lens adaptors. These give you the option of both 2D and 3D experiences, augmented and virtual reality scenarios.

Naturally, the headset offers a dial to adjust the Inter Pupillary Distance (IPD) to optimise your visual comfort.

The biggest thing for me is that the H1 is designed for comfortable use by spectacle and non-spectacle wearers alike. Very handy for all those like me who need glasses and don’t wear contact lenses.

MVR Ascend – external head tracking sensor

The, patent pending, MVR external sensor allows you to step into the game by using your head movement. This controls the look around function in first person games (Sensor supplied with controller). This worked incredibly well with Project Cars and Call of Duty. It does take some getting used to but soon becomes as natural as looking around the really real  world.

mvr-headset-and-controlerThe H1 headset also comes fitted with its own dedicated stereo headphones with built in volume buttons. It also features call answer buttons for easy access to your phone.

MVR Ascend – first impressions

The Ascend, even in its per-production guise is really impressive.

mvr-prototype-screenThe dangling screen and game selection panel will appear in the underside of the controllers.

mvr-screen-placementThis will look awesome.

As the PC screen was being sent to the 3 year old Xperia in the headset I was expecting lag aplenty.

mvr-drivingI am relieved and happy to say that my poor performance on the games was purely down to my lack of skill. I must add a caveat here – I generally play Project Cars with a wireless controller and not a steering wheel and pedal set-up.

Being able to look around by moving my head really made the experience a lot more immersive. Call of Duty will take a little more time to get used to but, again, hardly any noticeable lag.

The hardware looks and feels quality. The optics seem spot on, as does the audio.

MVR Ascend game compatibility

Here is where the Ascend trounces the current crop of VR headsets.

You can play all the current and future games in VR! Play all First Person and Open World PS4, Xbox One and PC Games in VR from day one.

mvr-ascend-and-controllersAll existing first person games, that have a “look around” function, have already been pre-programmed into the P1 (PlayStation) and X1 (Xbox) controllers.

MVR are also in talks with a number of games developers to add native MVR sensor support to new games. This is in addition to developers releasing patches for existing games, adding the MVR Ascend VR system as a mapped controller input for enhanced accuracy.

MVR Ascend price and availability

The Kickstarter project for the MVR Ascend starts at 00:00:01 on Tuesday October 18th.

The RRPs are as follows:

  • The PS4 one will retail at £199
  • The XBox One version will retail at £249 (because this will come with a phone-sized tablet in the package)

As with all of these things, get on as soon as possible for those early bird offers. I’ve seen the pledge package offers and these are not to be missed!

Set your alarms folks as I think this is going to well worth backing.

I’ll be posting up the official Kickstarter details tomorrow – embargoes and that kinda stuff 😉


Here’s the Kickstarter link now that it is live and details can be found here.