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My fellow Big Tech Question co-editor Barry Collins is a VR sceptic. Well, he’s a most-things-sceptic to be fair, and annoyingly he’s usually right. How I wish that I’d had him in the room, then, to try out the results from the Lenovo Mirage Camera with Daydream.
The idea is that you record in proper 3D: that is, with depth data as well as a 180-degree field of view. That way, when someone views the results with a VR headset, they can see the image acting out before them as if they were watching in real life.
The Mirage Camera achieves this by capturing the scene with two 13-megapixel fish-eye cameras. There’s no viewfinder built into the camera, so you must either point and shoot, or download Google VR180 app and view a live stream on your phone.
Naturally, you can publicly stream what you’re viewing as well, so that Aunt Mary can watch her niece blowing out the birthday candles in real-time, or save the results for later viewing. It can capture images too.
What surprised me was how good the results were. Viewing the sample videos was like watching a hologram, and while it didn’t have an “HD” feel there was enough detail there to make it seem real. I think you’ll need to take advantage of the tripod thread built into the camera’s body, though, to avoid juddery results.
Lenovo Mirage Camera: the hardware
Roughly the size of a large matchbox, the Lenovo Mirage Camera can easily slip into a handbag or rucksack, and while there’s no formal weight given yet I’d guess it’s somewhere between 200g and 300g.
Lenovo promises up to two hours of recording time, and sensibly provides a removable battery and fast-charging via USB-C. There’s 16GB of built-in memory or you can slot in a microSD card to add up to 128GB of storage.
Lenovo Mirage Solo: the perfect partner?
So how did I view the results of the Mirage Camera? On the rather nice Mirage Solo VR headset. This is based on Google Daydream, but rather than slot in your camera it has its own screen.
The main benefit of this is ease of use. Taking our example of a child’s birthday party, not every relative will want to fiddle around with a VR headset and smartphone, or want to fiddle around with VR apps.
Give them the Mirage Solo headset, though, and everything just works. It’s tough to judge the quality of a VR headset after only a few minutes’ use, but I can say that the Mirage Solo was comfortable to wear (even over my glasses) and also quite light.
Lenovo VR: how much and when?
While Lenovo appears keen to keep prices low, don’t expect this camera and headset to come free with a packet of Rice Krispies. The Mirage Camera is likely to cost under $300 and the Solo under $400.
You’ll also have to wait a while. Both products are due for release some time between April and June 2018.
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