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Lenovo's Explorer Mixed Reality headset starts at just $349.99

It's been a while since we first saw Lenovo's first take on a mixed reality headset designed to work with Windows 10. But now, here at IFA 2017, it's finally a formal announcement: this is the Lenovo Explorer.

Like all of the other Windows Mixed Reality headsets, the Explorer offers inside-out tracking via motion sensors and a pair of outward-facing cameras on the front corners of the headset. These cameras give the Lenovo Explorer both spatial awareness and room tracking, as well as keeping tabs on the Microsoft-designed motion controllers.

Lenovo is touting the broad capabilities of the Explorer, thanks to Windows Mixed Reality, including watching shows "in a virtual home office environment" (personally, I watch shows in my living room, but I'm weird like that), VR games, 360° video, and even the ability to "get things done with Microsoft Office suite."

All of this works over a single cable, running to your compatible PC and splitting into simply USB and HDMI plugs. Lenovo also designed the Explorer with comfort in mind, having had conversations with customers about the potential for lengthy VR sessions. The headset and its band were designed with keeping an even balance front-to-back in mind, and the visor (like many other Windows MR headsets) was designed to flip up to provide the reader with easy access to the rest of the world.

The Lenovo Explorer will be available globally starting in October, priced at $349. If you want a bundle with a pair of Microsoft Motion Controllers, that'll run $349.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

15 Comments
  • same price with controllers?
  • Should be $449 with the controllers.
  • The more and more I think about it, I wish we didn't need to use the controllers and instead they would allow plugging those XB1 Kinects into the computer and have it recognize you that way. It was able to recognize down to hand gestures, why not allow reaching out with your hands and interact that way?
  • Because a stationary camera can only track your motion within a small area and when facing the camera. Using the cameras on the headset means you can track the controllers wherever you happen to be and in whatever direction.
  • You really don't need to be stationary for the Kinect to be used, you could more around and it would still be able to track you. And yes, if I were to turn around it would not work. You are not moving that far away from your computer since you are teathered to it. But when I first put my HP headset on, I immediately reached out and tried to tap the UI. If they would enable Kinect for this, it would be great. No controls, just you interacting with the environment.
  • With this setup do you need the VR headset to see the controllers? I mean, do you need to hold them high all the time? That sounds cumbersome.
  • THe headsets have cameras on the front, and the controllers need to be in view of the cameras to be able to handle positioning. I was watching a video yesterday (it may have been the WC video) where someone with the controllers put it in a bag then moved their hands. Rotational positioning was still detected but moving your hands around did not register. There are lights on the controllers that the camera sees and uses to position. If they are out of view of the cameras, they cannot be located. That is why I wish they could use the Kinect. It doesn't need to be either/or, but in addition. But the controllers setup is still much better than the competition. No sensors need to be placed in the room, you can take them with you, no holding up a much heavier phone or tablet in front of you, etc.
  • Kinect v2 is already supported in Windows 10 with the USB 3.0 adapter, and the software layer does depth map and skeleton recognition within UWP apps.
    This means what you're asking for already exists, it's up to apps/games developers to experiment with the user interface and enable Windows MR + Kinect if they want to.
  • I know it is available, I have tinkered writing to it before. I just wish it was more integrated. Support it in the main menu when you first start the device, make it part of the experience.
  • I bet the price with controllers is $399 not $349. One of the things I don't understand is the "single cable" that MS and partners are claiming. It's not realy one cable if it splits into two. A single USB-C could probably do it but it sounds more like this is HDMI and USB 3. The HDMI requirement limits it's use a lot. MS made a big deal about how the Mixed Reality requirements are going to be low enough to use integrated GPU on laptops etc. but almost no laptops have HDMI ports. I suppose if it has USB-C then you can have a dongle... but again more complicated and more "cables". Even on desktop machines you may have to unplug your monitor every time you want to use (if you use HDMI for that already). 
  • Other headsets have a cable for the headset itself, plus a cable for each base station camera, so from that point of view, it is a "single cable" advantage over other products.
  • Just about everything you wrote here is completely wrong. Yes, the cable splits into two, but when they say there is one single cable, there is one cable that leads out of the headset, but two different connectors are used. One is the HDMI cable, one is the USB cable. You plug the USB cable into the computer so that data from the cameras can be sent back to the computer for scanning the room. The HDMI connector is used for sending data back to the displays in the headset. If HDMI 2 is supported by your hardware then it does 90MHz, HDMI 1.4 will display at 60MHz. Practically every laptop except for the lowest of low end ones have some sort of HDMI or other display connection. There are far more laptops with HDMI connectors than there are laptops with USB-C connectors. If they limited to just USB-C then there would be far more people who would not be able to use these devices because, yes, you can convert USB-C to USB-A, but then you have nothing to connect to for video. There are no USB-C to HDMI and USB-A splitters. Many desktops have more than one connector for video out. I just bought a new desktop that has two integrated display out ports, one for HDMI and one for display port. And if you have a discreet graphics card then there will be more than one display out. My graphics card is high end (1080 Ti) but it has 1 HDMI and 3 display port out. My Surface Pro has a mini displayport, my MacBook Pro has an HDMI. And yes, I have connected my HP and Acer headsets to my SP and my desktop. I have also connected it to my XPS15 which has USB-C, and it worked just fine through the HDMI and USB-A ports. Now compare that to USB-C. How many desktop computers have USB-C? How many laptops? You will find far more desktop computers with two video outs, and far more laptops with a video out then you will find with USB-C.
  • There are almost no ultrabooks and/or convertable notebooks that have HDMI due to the physical size of the connector. Even mini HDMI isn't on most ultrabooks. Even Lenovo's own products they announced at ITF today don't have HDMI (and if you look at most other manufacturers of ultrabooks and convertables you will see the same thing). I'm not really talking about lower end laptops at this point because I don't think someone who purchased a $400 laptop is the target audiance at the moment for a $400 AR/VR headset. My point on the desktop HDMI limitation was specific to the point that MS has made that the CPU/GPU requirements are low and you can now use integrated GPU. If your system only has integrated GPU and you are using HDMI for your monitor you don't have a second HDMI for the headset. So you have to switch back and forth. Display port isn't as widely used as HDMI (personaly my monitor used DP so my HDMI is available but I'm generalizing). In regards to the cable. Are you really telling me that if I bundled 10 cables in a sleave inside my device (whatever it is) so that "one" thing comes out but you had to plug the other end into 10 different ports that it is still "a single cable"? Come on! One cable means plug it into one thing. Not two. I agree it's better then the PSPro VR connector, Vive, Rift. But it's not "single cable". USB-C with thunderbolt can do video and USB at the same time so using USB-C would be a single cable solution. I understand it's not as prevelant at the moment. Would be nice in my opinion if there were some way that these headsets could offer both USB-C or HDMI/USB-A. That way new systems could use USB-C and older ones could use the combo. Prosibly not practical to do that at the moment. I suspect it would be more complex then having a simple dongle at the end.
  • USB C is not an option. Well it is for the USB link, but you would need HDMI as well. Relying on your CPU to do the video would be crazy for VR, you need to use that big 'ol graphics card you spent so much on. I don't believe USB C can use the video card, right? Doesn't seem to if I connect a USB C hub to my desktop PC. All my newer devices support USB C. The argument that old laptops don't support USB C is not great, because old laptops are hardly a recipe for a good VR experience anyway. I know MS didn't support them on the new Surface devices but that was clearly a mistake. Joining in with that nonsense will just hold things back. We should not be congratulating them on their regressive thinking. USB C is not cool for replacing HDMI for VR but it is cool for replacing USB A.
  • most laptops can have a usb-c or mini display port to hdmi.