Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Exploring the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset

I’ve been very lucky to partner with Acer Education to explore the possibilities of the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset in the classroom. Personally, I wanted to take a look at this tool from the perspective of the Makerspace. How can the headset help students create and learn? Here’s what I think after exploring the Acer WMR Headset and Windows 10 for the past three weeks.

Setup:

It’s important that you have a device that can run WMR. I’m using an Acer Aspire 7, which handles all the games and apps I’ve thrown at it with ease. The Aspire 7 is an incredible gaming laptop that is perfect for the headset. If you need a device, this is the one you need to get. You can find out more about the Acer Aspire 7 here. If you’re interested in the specs for the Acer WMR Headset, you can find them here. Next, make sure you have the latest, updated version of Windows 10. The headset will not work with an older version. Once you have updated everything, all you need to do is plug in the HDMI cord and the USB cord, and the app will open on the computer. Follow the directions, and you’ll be up and (virtually) running in a matter of minutes.

The Acer WMR Headset does not require an exterior camera to be set up around the room. It uses the headset and the computer to locate where you are in the physical world so it can communicate your location to the digital world. Two controllers fit nicely in your hands and allow you to control the virtual world with ease. They both require two AA batteries. I think I’ll be buying some rechargeable batteries to keep up with the controllers and headset. I could see going through lots of batteries with how awesome this headset is for students.

Use:

You start in a virtual lobby that gives you access to the Windows 10 Store. You can buy games, apps, videos, and all types of media. I was able to click a couple of times and download Minecraft easily. It’s a bigger file, so it took around 10 minutes to download. Once it does, you are ready for the world of Minecraft VR.

This is the regular version of Minecraft, not the Education Edition. However, there’s an option to turn on the Education tools in the settings, so you can do cool chemistry experiments. Here are just a few of the pictures I took while wearing the headset and some of my son having his mind blown by being able to build in Minecraft in VR.


I was able to explore some other apps as well: Galaxy Explorer and HoloTour.

Galaxy Explorer allows you to zoom through the galaxy and check out planets and other celestial bodies. It’s an awesome free app that gives you just a taste of what’s possible with the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset. HoloTour lets you take a tour of Rome and Machu Picchu. You can explore ancient ruins and learn about culture and life in ancient times. This app gives you a deep immersive experience, with people walking around you as the tour guide explains the buildings and structures you see. You feel like you’re there. I recommend using earbuds with the headset because they allow you to go one step deeper into the realm of VR.

I really wanted to test the limits of the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset, so I decided to buy Skyrim and see what the computer and headset could do with a heavy-load game. For those who aren’t familiar, Skyrim is one of the biggest video game titles of the past decade, and it has won numerous awards. You are an adventurer who sets out to save the world from a dragon threat. There are monsters and elves, ogres, trolls, and so much more. It’s a truly amazing game. Passing the Skyrim test is no easy task, so I was curious how the headset would hold up.

It was incredible! The sound and visuals came through wonderfully on the headset. I was able to move without any stalling of the computer. No choppy movements or game freezes. The game ran as smoothly as it does on my PlayStation. I was walking around, swinging a sword, and casting spells with my hands. It was a crazy experience to have in VR, and one that was simply mind-blowing. Here is an image I was able to snag while playing.




Overall, I can see the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset as a nice addition to my Makerspace for many reasons.

  • It’s not just a consumption device. The Acer WMR Headset allows users to create as well as consume content. Minecraft alone is enough to warrant a device if you’re looking for a way to immerse students fully in the world they are building. The VR arts apps are really great as well. The more artistic students could spend some time with the set creating stunning masterpieces.
  • It’s so easy to set up and use. For teachers and students with different technology skill levels, the Acer WMR Headset is super simple. Plug it in, put it on, and follow the onscreen directions. It’s nice to have a tool that’s simple for both students and teachers.
  • Standing, sitting, or moving—it doesn’t matter. The headset will let you sit and be in the VR world, or you can set up a perimeter that allows you to physically explore the space in the virtual realm.
  • The headset can handle the power of a labor-intensive game. The computer is doing the heavy lifting, but the headset needs to keep up with the graphics and sound as well, and the Acer WMR Headset does it perfectly. I have spent hours playing Skyrim and Minecraft, and I have yet to have a single issue.

These are just a few of the reasons I am in love with the Acer WMR Headset. As I continue to look for ways to make my Makerspace diverse for all learners, this addition is sure to allow students and teachers to take their learning to the next level. I think this image of me using the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset says it all.




Before I go, I want to share an awesome contest that is possible because of a partnership between Acer and Microsoft Education: the STEAM Lab Makeover giveaway. The grand-prize-winning school will receive 10 Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headsets, in addition to 10 Acer Aspire 7 laptop computers. To enter the contest, all you need to do is tweet @AcerEducation and tag #AcerGivesBack with your reason why your school deserves to win. That’s it. It’s super easy! The terms and conditions can be found here.



While this post is in partnership with Acer and they provided the Acer WMR Headset, that doesn’t mean I did not absolutely love the headset and think it will blow the minds of students in the Makerspace.