At IFA Berlin, Microsoft plans to reveal more details about its upcoming mixed reality platform and the headsets that go with it.
While the likes of Facebook and Google focus on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), Microsoft has been focussing on mixed reality (MR). MR can best be described as a cross between AR and VR, where the real and virtual worlds collide. Microsoft has demoed this reality using its HoloLens, first showcased in 2015. The demo was certainly exciting, but tempering that excitement was its price of $3,000. In comparison, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are $499 and $799 respectively.
With the newly announced hardware, Microsoft is promising to “democratise virtual reality this holiday”. To that end, Microsoft and its partners are announcing affordable headsets that are easy to set up. The easy-to-setup part is courtesy of Microsoft’s inside-out tracking, wherein sensors mounted on the headset are used for motion tracking as well as 3D mapping, both of which are required for a great VR/AR/MR experience. VR kits like those from Oculus and HTC require tracking cameras and other such paraphernalia to ensure a good VR experience.
Reporters from The Verge, who tried one of the headsets for themselves, state that these new headsets are, unlike the HoloLens, cheap VR headsets, making us wonder why they’re called MR headsets in the first place.
The price of the hardware will now start at $399 and should be compatible with most PCs. HP, Lenovo, Dell and Acer will be building these headsets.
According to Microsoft’s blog, PCs with integrated graphics should be able to power an MR experience at 60 fps. PCs that are more powerful should be able to power MR at 90 fps and will be classified as ‘Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs’.
New controllers were also unveiled at the event, and while The Verge reports that they look like the Oculus Touch controllers, do note that the tracking mechanism is slightly different. Instead of external cameras, the headset’s own camera will track the position of LED lights on the controllers.
Finally, Microsoft has left the most interesting bit for the last. The software giant has announced that the headsets will now support the Steam VR platform and that 343 Industries, the folk behind Halo, will be bringing the Halo experience to MR platforms soon.