Last winter Microsoft announced that the company started working together with its PC hardware partners to develop headsets that support a mixed mode, between virtual and augmented reality. These headsets run a new version of Microsoft’s software called Windows Mixed Reality, a version of Windows that natively supports both augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences.
At the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, or IFA, the biggest annual consumer electronics trade fair in Europe which started last week, this software giant took the center stage. They said that they will include their “Windows Mixed Reality” in the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (available from Oct 17). The new operating system will also bring multiple affordable devices, all being VR-like headsets with eyes with front-facing cameras. What the user sees is either real surroundings shot on those cameras mixed with virtual objects or virtual surroundings mixed with real objects. Windows Mixed Reality headsets will be able to run on laptops that don’t include dedicated graphics card.
At IFA, the four Microsoft partners showed their headsets, which do not need external sensors to work, and can be plugged into even mid-range Windows PCs with the Creators Update. Prices for the headsets start at US$399, making them more affordable than the likes of Oculus Rift VR or HTC Vive, which could cost over US$1,200 when factoring in the need for a high-end PC.
Microsoft is partnering HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo to launch the first Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which can be potentially applied to video gaming, entertainment, business applications and more. With prices starting as low as $299, this winter is increasingly looking very competitive in the PC segment.
“It (the Windows Mixed Reality headset) could be touted as a game changer in the sense that it is making mixed reality more reachable to the average consumer and not just gaming enthusiasts or developers,” said IDC’s associate research director Avinav Trigunait. He added that Microsoft’s announcement will primarily help drive mass adoption of mixed reality headsets, because of its affordability, ease of access through pairing on consumer or enterprise laptops, and exposing more consumers to mixed reality experiences by making them
available on Windows 10, which is expected to reach millions of users globally.
IDC has forecast that worldwide revenues for AR and VR will increase by 100 per cent or more over each of the next four years. Total spending on AR/VR products and services is expected to soar from US$11.4 billion (S$15.5 billion) this year to nearly US$215 billion in 2021.