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The 8 best mixed reality headsets of 2018

“Mixed reality is (…) generally equated to AR by many, even within the industry. There is room for much debate in this conversation but simply put, one could say MR is AR 2.0.” Mixed reality vs. augmented reality: what's the difference?

Alex Lodola

What is mixed reality?

Mixed reality (MR) is also known as MX, immersive media, spatial computing, and hybrid reality. MR headsets importantly present an overlay of digital content that interacts with objects in the real world in real time, thus mixed reality is viewed through transparent wearable glasses or headsets.

Although most MR products are in the research and development phase, two well-known products (Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One) dominate the market and the imagination of the content creators who see the value of mixed reality. Magic Leap, in particular, has generated a huge media buzz for the future and potential of the tech.

However, as we explore in this article, there are other MR options available. Some MR headsets are not commercially available while others are yet to be released, but 2019 should see the release of a fistful of MR headsets that could tempt consumers and developers. The price range suggests mixed reality will become more affordable with smartphone-powered MR.

There remains a collective ambiguity though about the use of the terms augmented reality and mixed reality– we tackle the difference in this article and explain the terms with some real-world application and products.

Most importantly for the growth of mixed reality is that it’s not considered a niche, as huge tech powerhouses are investing in mixed reality; Google and Samsung are reportedly developing a mixed reality device, and Apple has several patents for mixed reality headsets.

 

The 8 best mixed reality headsets of 2018

MR headsetFOVCountryYear of release**Price in USD (MSRP*)AvailabilityCategory
Avegant Lightfield-US--Coming soonTethered
Dimension NXG AjnaLens95°India2018**$1,500Coming soonStandalone
Magic Leap One40°US2018$2,295AvailableStandalone
Microsoft HoloLens35°US2016$3,000AvailableStandalone
Microsoft HoloLens 2-US2019**-Coming soonStandalone
Occipital Bridge120°US2016$399AvailableSmartphone
Tesseract Holoboard Enterprise Edition82°India2018$349AvailableSmartphone
Zappar Zapbox-UK2018$30AvailableSmartphone
This table represents our selection of the mixed reality headsets available on the market, or in development. These MR HMDs are ranked in alphabetical order only and the selection of these headsets is fair and unbiased.
*MSRP: manufacturer's suggested retail price. These prices are subject to change over time and from one country to another.
**Expected release
 

Methodology/disclaimer: we haven’t tested all of the headsets in this list, but we do take into account overall feedback from specialized, trusted sources as well as crowdsourced user reviews. Read more here for a better understanding of how we work at Aniwaa.

What’s the best mixed reality headset in 2018?

Avegant Lightfield Best MR HMD

Avegant Lightfield

  • FOV: –
  • Country: US
  • MR headset price: –

Although not available commercially, this mixed reality headset incorporates lightfield technology, which is set to increase immersion and realism experienced by users’ within mixed reality. This tethered MR headset can visualize, for example, virtual prototypes, schematics for structures or even organs for scientific purposes.

Find out more: Avegant Lightfield

Dimension NXG AjnaLens best mixed reality headset

Dimension NXG AjnaLens

  • FOV: 95°
  • Country: India
  • MR headset price: $1,500

Incorporating AI, environmental mapping and enhanced 3D digital holograms, this Indian backed startup is targeting a range of industries with an MR headset that can rival the more expensive brands within mixed reality. The 90-degree field of view of the AjnaLens is also much larger than HoloLens or Magic Leap. This MR HMD is still in development.

Find out more: Dimension NXG AjnaLens

Magic Leap One best MR headset

Magic Leap One

  • FOV: 40°
  • Country: US
  • MR headset price: $2,295

The Magic Leap One also utilizes lightfield technology and comes with a wearable Lightpack to power the device. There is generally a lot of excitement about the potential of the device and content developers are now working on suitable content. Read our recent blog on the Magic Leap which has gained arguably the most media attention of all the mixed reality headsets, as well as significant funding.

Find out more: Magic Leap One

Microsoft HoloLens best mixed reality headset

Microsoft HoloLens

  • FOV: 35°
  • Country: US
  • MR headset price: $3,000

The HoloLens has been in circulation since 2016 and was the first standalone mixed reality headset available. Although it has a small FOV (35°) and a high price tag of $3,000, the HMD has been integrated into several industries ranging from manufacturing and retail to healthcare and education.

Find out more: Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft Hololens 2 MR headset

Microsoft Hololens 2

  • FOV:
  • Country: US
  • MR headset price: –

Following on from the HoloLens, Microsoft has been developing the 2nd version, HoloLens 2, with a number of upgrades being planned. These include the latest Kinect sensor, a custom AI chip to enhance the MR performance, a larger FOV, longer battery life, and a more comfortable design and fit. Two key new features are the inclusion of inside-out tracking as well as holographic lenses. Currently, the headset is expected in 2019.

Find out more: Microsoft Hololens 2

Occipital Bridge best mixed reality headset

Occipital Bridge

  • FOV: 120°
  • Country: US
  • MR headset price: $399 (the price without the Structure Sensor is $179)

The Occipital Bridge is a smartphone mixed reality headset which has 6DoF and inside-out tracking as well as the largest FOV of all the MR HMDs (120°). The HMD is only compatible with iPhones (6S and up) as well as the Occipital Structure Sensor, a mobile 3D scanning device.

Find out more: Occipital Bridge

Tesseract Holoboard Enterprise Edition best smartphone mixed reality headset

Tesseract Holoboard Enterprise Edition

  • FOV: 82°
  • Country: India
  • MR headset price: $349
Tesseract produces this affordable smartphone-powered mixed reality headset which features a wide FOV for MR (82°) and an inexpensive price point of $349. The Holoboard Enterprise Edition offers mixed reality for Android (smartphones running Android 6.0 and above) with OTG (on-the-go) support. In addition, the HMD uses IMU (inertial measurement unit) based tracking and proprietary marker-based (spatial) tracking which allows users to interact and place 3D content.

Find out more: Tesseract Holoboard Enterprise Edition

Zappar Zapbox Best MR headset

Zappar Zapbox

  • FOV: –
  • Country: UK
  • MR headset price: $30

The most affordable MR headset ($30) is the Zappar Zapbox which is a cardboard mixed reality HMD. The device is based on Google Cardboard and is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones which have a display size between 4.5 and 6 inches. This inexpensive mixed reality wearable works with cardboard controllers and cardboard markers which are used to map the MR space in the real world.

Find out more: Zappar Zapbox

What is Windows Mixed Reality?

As we have touched on already, mixed reality as part of the extended reality (XR) spectrum, is (in our opinion) underused or misused within the tech industry, which is causing extra confusion for consumers. A big part of this reason was Windows naming their range of virtual reality headsets Windows Mixed Reality. These Windows mixed reality (VR) headsets have been steadily released over recent years and in partnership with other key tech manufacturers such as Dell, Acer, Asus, Samsung, etc.

Mixed reality vs. Windows Mixed Reality (WMR)

Microsoft introduced Windows 10 mixed reality in 2015 and released an updated Milgram Scale as “The Mixed Reality Spectrum”. This included their HoloLens (MR) and VR headsets on opposing sides of the spectrum.

Most of the WMR products are considered virtual reality headsets and not mixed reality.

The following is a list of Windows MR headsets which are in fact virtual reality HMDs:

 

Mixed reality headsets: pros and cons

Benefits of MR headsets

  • Headsets are available as standalone, smartphone, and tethered with a range of price points
  • Most released products are usable with glasses
  • Mixed reality offers an immersive look at the future of XR
  • MR headsets allow you to interact with your real-world environment (unlike VR where users are isolated from the real world)

Limits of MR headsets

  • Generally small FOV
  • Limited content compared to AR and VR
  • Few commercial MR headsets are readily available right now

Mixed reality for Android vs. mixed reality for iPhone

Apart from the most well-known brands in MR offering standalone mixed reality headsets, a new wave of smartphone MR headsets are in the pipeline or have been recently released. These affordable mixed reality headsets offer MR experiences through mobile phones. Here are the mixed reality HMDs for Android and iPhone available on the market:

Mixed reality FAQs

What is the difference between mixed reality and augmented reality?

Augmented reality overlays digital content on top of the real-world, whereas mixed reality is a digital overlay that allows virtual elements to integrate and interact with the real-world environment. For a more comprehensive overview, read our Ultimate VR-AR-MR-guide and blog post.

What is the meaning of HMD?

HMD is the acronym for head-mounted display (or helmet-mounted display). There are products within virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality that are offered as HMDs, which is a device worn on a users head with either a display in front of one or both eyes.

What is Windows Mixed Reality?

Windows Mixed Reality is a content platform where users can access VR games and experiences via Windows Mixed Reality headsets. This name may be misleading, as Windows MR headsets are in fact virtual reality (VR) devices and not mixed reality.

What is Mixed Reality Portal?

Mixed Reality Portal is the desktop app that guides users through their Windows Mixed Reality headset setup. It also serves as the command center on a PC for the Windows Mixed Reality.

Is HoloLens mixed reality?

Yes, the Microsoft HoloLens is a mixed reality headset which is untethered (standalone) and doesn’t require any external power to run. It includes 3 distinct types of sensors and 5 cameras to offer a mixed reality experience.

What industries use mixed reality?

There is a range of industries that are – or have expressed an interest in – using mixed reality. These include education, robotics, commerce, healthcare, architecture, marketing, real estate, sports and more.

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