Microsoft has been teasing it’s VR headsets for a while, promising a range of Mixed Reality headsets that would be affordable for the casual user. With next month’s Fall Creators Update, the highly touted platform will be available to everyone. The software release is in addition to new hardware just in time for the holiday season.
Microsoft has announced a partnership with SteamVR. Games built for Valve’s SteamVR platform will run on Windows Mixed Reality headsets. This is fantastic news for the device, it means that from day one there will be an existing library of software that will be compatible. Microsoft also announced that a future Halo title will support virtual reality.
Microsoft is releasing $299 headsets and $399 headset and motion controller bundles. The price alone makes this VR bundle stand out, but it isn’t stopping there. The setup of the Windows VR system is much easier than the more expensive competitors, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The Windows platform uses “inside out” tracking, combining acceleration input with visual input cameras in the headset to provide motion tracking. Other VR devices need fixed base stations to provide tracking.
The same tracking system is used in the highly complex controllers. The Microsoft controllers have more inputs than the HTC Vive. The controllers have more buttons and controls on them, and have a dedicated right and left controller.
Hardware requirements have also been reduced for the Microsoft headsets. Windows Mixed Reality PCs will use integrated graphics, Intel Skylake processors or better. These graphics will be able to drive the headsets at 60 fps. Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs will use graphic processors to push to 90 fps. The Ultra PCs will also feature a larger field of view in addition to the higher framerate. These PCs will also be able to mirror the headset view for sharing the VR view.
Overall Microsoft is coming out strong with it’s VR headsets. The price along with simpler setup and minimal hardware requirements seems like a dream come true for those wanting to jump into the VR waters for the first time. Time will tell if Microsoft is able to make a dent in the marketplace but it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.