How to get Mixed Reality working on a Surface Book

I found these notes on reddit and reproduced them here in case anyone else finds them useful:


I picked up a Surface Book last year, and it has quickly become my ideal laptop. I was excited to hear about Windows MR headsets working with lower spec machines, Windows Surface Book + Windows Immersive seemed like a match made in heaven.

Unfortunately, once I actually tried to get things up and running, I ran into quite a few issues. A little digging into forums indicated that several other folks were running into trouble as well. Even worse, Microsoft had directly declared the Surface Book line incompatible with Windows MR.

It seemed kind of silly that less capable machines were able to run the Mixed Reality Portal, so I dug a little deeper. There were 3 main roadblocks:

  • Surface Book fails the Portal Compatibility Check
  • USB recognition issues
  • Specific display adapter is necessary

The following guide provides workarounds for these roadblocks. Follow the guide at your own risk, there is some regediting involved that may lead to unexpected results (although everything is working fine for me so far).


Depending on the Surface Book you have, you may or may not be running into this problem. For mine, the check did not like the driver associated with the integrated Intel Graphics, nor the nondescript “Nvidia GeForce GPU”

Unfortunately, there is no way to update these drivers outside of a Windows update. Manually installing drivers got around the check, but the display adapters did not function properly. Essentially, you have to go into the registry to convince Windows to ignore the check.

Open the Registry Editor and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Holographic\FirstRun (you can paste that into the address bar at the top).

Create a new DWORD (32-bit) value (either via Edit or context menu) and give it a name of AllowFailedSystemChecks.

Double-click that value and set its data to 1.

You can now restart Mixed Reality Portal, and the “Next” button should be clickable no matter what. Keep in mind that if the compatibility check is right about whatever it doesn’t like, that you will run into issues later.


So you get past the compatibility check and it asks you to plug in your headset. I plugged in my Acer VR HMD, and immediately got the message that the hardware was not recognized.

As it turns out, a very similar thing happens when trying to get a Kinect going on a surface book. There is some Surface specific part of the USB driver that causes an enumeration failure. The workaround is to open the Registry Editor, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class{36fc9e60-c465-11cf-8056-444553540000}.

Double click on the LowerFilters string and delete the Value Data “SurfaceUsbHubFwUpdate”


I got really excited at this point! Mixed Reality Portal started right up, recognized the Acer headset, and began downloading and installing things. Unfortunately, the trials were not over. As soon as the Portal tutorial started up, my monitor began to flicker and no video displayed in the headset. This “black flickering” happens if your dongle does not support mini display port 1.2 to HDMI 2.0. Windows have a specific list of adapters that they recommend.

I picked up the official Surface Mini DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 Adapter, and finally I was in business!

Interestingly, it seems to function best when I disable the Nvidia GPU in Device Manager and force Integrated Graphics only. I will continue to experiment to see if I can get it to run in low-spec mode using the Nvidia GPU.


Mixed Reality Headsets Acer vs HP vs 3Glasses

So I currently have all 3 of these headsets in front of me and thought I would give my own findings on how they compare.

Comfort / Convenience

The 3 Glasses with it’s more traditional approach to it’s strapping system is, while comfortable enough, my least favorite of the three to wear for any length of time.  I have come to the conclusion having tried various headsets that it is the “PSVR style” of fitting,  as has now been adopted by the majority of the Mixed Reality headsets, that is the most comfortable!  That said, the 3Glasses, with it’s built in headphones, does make it the most convenient of the three to just pick up and use without any fuss, while the other two both have the convenience of a “flip up” visor – just in case you have to spend the odd moment in the real world!

The HP and Acer were both comfortable enough but my personal preference was for the HP which just felt less restrictive – perhaps due to it having a larger facial compartment (for want of a better term).

NB Those who wear glasses will also find a little more room for them within the HP and 3Glasses headsets.

In terms of weight I decided to do my own non-scientific weigh-in.  Unsurprisingly the 3Glasses with it’s built in headphones wasn’t the lightest , but by such a small margin that I am tempted to claim it the victor (as it would almost certainly be the lightest in terms of overall head weight if the other two headsets were paired with full over ear headphones).


NB Someone pointed out that the HP might be weighing heavily as a result of the connector for the separate lead being included in the overall weight – as I say, this was not a weigh-in carried out under scientifically proven conditions!

Differentiating Factors

Putting cost and styling to one side for a moment I thought it might be useful to list the main things that make these headsets different from each other:

  • The Acer headset includes a magnetometer – making it able to discern a true compass direction.
  • The Acer came bundled with a free VR game “Ghostbusters”
  • The Acer comes with an additional Velcro facial padding.
  • The HP’s connectors are replaceable – something that might just give it the edge over the other headsets in terms of longevity.
  • The 3Glasses headset has a DisplayPort 1.3 connector that is common to desktop based systems.  This might be the reason for the increased brightness of the S1’s display (but makes it more of a headache to link to a Laptop for a mobile experience).
  • The 3Glasses supports up to 120Hz refresh whereas the Acer and HP are up to 90Hz
  • The 3Glasses has the addition of built in headphones
  • The 3Glasses has the addition of hardware based IPD adjustment (inter Pupillary Distance)
  • The 3Glasses facial padding is not easily removable (unlike the other two headsets which both allow for replacement)
  • The 3Glasses has the addition of a headset based “Windows Button”
  • The 3Glasses has it’s own separate tracking camera and does not support “inside out” tracking – out of the box is more suited to the user remaining in a largely static position (sitting or standing)
  • The 3Glasses controllers are rechargeable through their USB connectors (the Acer and HP require two standard AA batteries per controller).
  • The 3Glasses headset also supports it’s own bespoke environment as well as having support for Windows Mixed Reality.

In Use

The Acer and HP displays are less bright than the 3Glasses headset (which I believe is due to the 3Glasses use of a DisplayPort 1.2 connector instead of HDMI?).  I also found that while I had never noticed the screen door effect when using the 3Glasses when I first tried on the Acer I found it relatively easy to pick out the individual pixels once I went looking for them.  This may be as a result of the display being less bright and it is difficult to pin this finding down in any meaningful way but in any way I would re-iterate that these high(er) resolution displays are significantly better than the previous forerunners the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

NB I will continue to update this post over the coming days and weeks so please check back or subscribe if it is of interest 🙂

(Oh, and “pretty please” please hit one of the buttons below)

Mixed Reality – What is IPD and why does it matter?

Knowing your IPD (“Inter Pupillary Distance” or “The distance between each eye”) can make a difference to your initial and subsequent experiences in Mixed Realty as without correct adjustment of the hardware/software to match your IPD one of your eyes will probably be looking at a sub optimal image the result of watt might have you walking away with a “meh” rather than a “wow!”


So how can I calculate my IPD?

Your optician can certainly tell you your IPD when you have your eyes checked but if you are not planning on doing that soon there are a number of Apps that will give you a pretty good figure:



More information:

NB All Mixed Reality headsets have adjustment for IPD but my understanding is that only the Samsung headset has a sensor to do this for you (this being a bit of a luxury for something that should be a “one off”?)

NB You should re-check your IPD every 5 years or so

Developing for Mixed Reality – Where should I start?

“With the recent release of the Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets, controllers and the awesome Fall Creators update for Windows 10, it has never been a better time to immerse yourself in to the Mixed Reality space.

We say Mixed Reality, as unlike traditional VR products and solutions, there are no external devices or sensors required to make these solutions work, everything you need is built directly in to the Mixed Reality headset. To start you literally just have to plug it in and go.

We can extend the experience (like with the Vive and Oculus) with hand held controllers or gamepads but these should be seen as extensions to any Mixed Reality experience.

Through this short course, we will walk through the basic tools and API’s you’ll need to start building your Mixed Reality experiences and some common tips and tricks to make it the best it can be.”

Read the whole article here