This week has seen the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows VR platform. Will high-end virtual reality and augmented reality now finally conquer the consumer market?
The first consumer versions of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive became available eighteen months ago. Though both platforms come with an enthusiastic followers and have been able to generate a wide array of software and games, the mainstream success of PC-based VR has yet to really emerge. These types of high-end VR headsets for most consumers still remain intriguing and futuristic oddities.
Microsoft promised to change all this last year. With the launch of Windows VR (a.k.a. ‘Windows Mixed Reality), Microsoft and its hardware partners have now introduced the third large VR platform on the PC market. Several significant differences with the two other large PC VR platforms, Rift and Vive, might increase Microsoft’s (and VR’s) mainstream success.
There will be various headsets available from many different hardware producers. The first headsets from Acer, Lenovo, Dell and HP have just been launched. Prices vary between €399-499, which include the motion controllers. Although this still can’t be called a bargain, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive upon launch cost nearly twice as much (though these headsets have recently become considerably cheaper). The main difference in pricing lies in additional add-ons and headband version. Technically seen, they are identical.
Another important difference is that the Windows Mixed Reality headsets are more user-friendly. The Vive and Rift use external sensors that need to be positioned in the room for tracking. Microsoft’s new platform integrates the sensors into the headset. These sensors are also used for the motion controllers, so users can get started with VR without having to install or calibrate external sensors. This will certainly appeal to consumers.
Microsoft has made sure that the Windows Mixed Reality headsets also work on mid-priced systems. This will make VR accessible for consumers that don’t want to invest €1200-1500 in a high-end PC. Systems with lower specifications will control the display in the headset at 60Hz, whilst high-end systems can reach 90Hz (such as Rift and Vive). Users can download a test in the Windows Store that checks if their PC is suitable for Windows Mixed Reality.
Users will first gain access to a virtual home that also acts as main screen. From here, the Windows Store can be opened, internet can be used, mails can be checked and sent, and videos can be played on virtual screens. Microsoft is furthermore collaborating with Valve to bring SteamVR support to Windows Mixed Reality, meaning that hundreds of VR games and apps on Steam will become available on Microsoft’s new VR headset. This will instantaneously create an enormous library.
Wait and see
There is plenty of news from Microsoft and its partners in the VR world. We will just have to wait and see if the Windows Mixed Reality headsets with lesser system requirements and integrated sensors can truly measure up to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Price-wise and access-wise, Windows Mixed Reality already seems one step ahead.
We will bring you more news about this exciting VR market development in the weeks to come.