Microsoft’s cheaper, lower-spec VR initiative Mixed Reality launches October 17th

Arriving late to virtual reality, Microsoft have rebranded it Windows Mixed Reality et voila, the revolution will begin anew on October 17th. Microsoft have announced that Mixed Reality support will hit Windows 10 in the Fall Creators Update on that day, launching their VR initiative alongside headsets from several companies. Windows Mixed Reality is a term that supposedly will one day encompass both virtual reality and augmented reality (where cyberbits interact with the real world before our eyes), but the launch lineup is all VR headsets starting around £250. They’re not regular cybergoggs, mind, bearing lower system requirements and including built-in sensors that mean you don’t need to set up external sensors for motion controllers. And it’s named Mixed Reality, so it’s clearly different.

Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo will have goggs for the October 17th launch, and Samsung will launch theirs in November. See the lineup this-a-way. Control-wise, MR goggs pack motion control wands (not necessarily included with all models) or Xbox One pads work. The Verge have tried on some of the goggs, if you’re curious what they’re like.

And… Mixed Reality is VR? They’re VR goggles doing those VR things but built to support lower-spec PCs. (If you have the sandmuscle, mind, your PC might qualify for Windows Mixed Reality Ultra status, which makes this confusing name even worse.) MR goggs will work with SteamVR games, meaning a fair library is already available. Check out what our Alec considers the best VR games to get an idea.

The makers of Halo have made a little free doodad named Halo Recruit to dip their toes into the MR cyberwaters too. “Let’s be clear, this isn’t a game or even a part of a game,” 343 Industries say, “it is a light introduction to the world of Halo and some of its most iconic characters… oh, and its weapons and maybe a Warthog. The point is, it was a chance for us to start to play with Microsoft’s amazing new technology…”

Microsoft have also bought the cyberspace social zone AltspaceVR, which launched in 2016 but ran out of money and was shutting down until Microsoft stepped in. Microsoft have also whipped together Cliff House, a VR MR environment which takes the convenience of your Windows desktop and scatters it across a cyberhouse for your inconvenience. You can see that from 9:20 in this demo from yesterday’s event:

What about actual mixed reality that combines the real world with cyber, the technology we know as augmented reality? Microsoft are still working on their HoloLens visor, but the idea is a fair way away from a consumer release. AR is also making a comeback on pocket telephones thanks to Apple’s new ARkit.

31 Comments

  1. ResonanceCascade says:

    “Let’s be clear, this isn’t a game or even a part of a game,” 343 Industries say, “it is a light introduction to the world of Halo and some of its most iconic characters… oh, and its weapons and maybe a Warthog. The point is, it was a chance for us to start to play with Microsoft’s amazing new technology…”

    Going in for the hard sell on this, I see. Seriously, that is the most deflated piece of marketing I’ve ever seen.

    At any rate, I’m glad that this technology is getting cheaper and more accessible. Hopefully the bubble doesn’t burst before it catches on. VR really is worth pursuing.

    • davethejuggler says:

      I mean, that’s kinda refreshing rather than promising the world and then releasing a 20 minute “experience”.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Absolutely. But if you’re going to leverage your most valuable gaming IP just to make something barely worth a shrug, I have to wonder what the point of making it at all was. It’s certainly not going to sell a single unit of the hardware.

        Does Microsoft have any commitment to this thing, or are they just throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks?

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      They’re doing right to undersell Halo: Recruit. Road to VR has a gameplay video of it and, well… link to youtube.com

  2. Phil Culliton says:

    I’ve got the HP dev kit (such as it is) and it’s quite nice. Still waiting on integration with SteamVR, though. Best thing about it? Works pretty well on low-spec machines AFAICT – that’s what’s got me excited, frankly.

  3. Stone_Crow says:

    Glad to see the price point and making VR/MR more accessible, but getting a bit of a Zune Player feeling.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Given that the Zune HD is the best MP3 player ever made, I hope that is the case.

    • GreetingsEarthling says:

      Naw, this is exactly what VR needs – a spec that multiple manufacturers compete to realize. Don’t get me wrong, we also need innovation in input, spatial recognition etc., so I hope Oculus is still competitive. But with Minecraft as a reason to buy, I have no doubt that at least 2 manufacturers will emerge successful this year with Windows “MR” aka VR.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Don’t put any money on Oculus innovating in this area. Facebook bought them for a reason and that reason isn’t gaming. Facebook is going down a similar route as Microsoft but they want it to be independent of additional hardware such as phones and PCs.

      • Herring says:

        There’s a few manufacturers developing VR for SteamVR; using the Lighthouse tech but their own specs for headsets. Most look technically superior to the HTC Vive in many areas too.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Well, this is disappointing. Hololens looked legit cool and (unlike VR) would have a lot of practical applications (albeit also shoot us further towards a terrifying cyberpunk future). This sort of branding nonsense is just going to confuse people when/if Hololens actually launches.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      It is and isn’t. RPS is a niche interest site so when you are looking at it through the lens of PC gaming it doesn’t make sense to not just call it VR.

      Two of Microsoft’s biggest competitors in the consumer space are Apple and Google and they are heavily pushing Augmented Reality (AR) not VR.

      Microsoft has acknowledged that AR is the next big thing but if it put its current focus purely on VR it would lose ground to Apple and Google. Microsoft has very recent and painful memories of what happens when they concede ground to those two companies.

      Microsoft is also using the same technology between AR and VR so its effectively one platform. All of the OEM partners releasing VR headsets should be able to release AR headsets once the technology has matured enough.

      In the end Microsoft can either yet and have separate conversations around VR and AR or just like it has done now, roll it into one and called it by a singular term.

  5. Stevostin says:

    I’ve read the whole piece and I have no idea how this is relevant for use PC gamers compared to say HTC Vive or Occulus.

    • cablechip says:

      pros: higher resolution, lower price points, reduced lower end requirements, no need for external sensors.

      cons: worse motion tracking, lower FOV and LCDs instead of OLED in four of the five MR headsets.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      For the exact same reasons articles about the GeForce 1060 are relevant or articles about i5 CPU’s.
      The Vive is a £400+ headset that requires a £600+ GPU. It’s an item that restricts its userbase by being prohibitively expensive. Small userbases don’t generate enough revenue to sustain software developers and they won’t invest in the tech.

      TL;DR – Reducing the barrier to entry will increase the market and should lead to more games for Vive and Oculus owners.

  6. skyturnedred says:

    While I myself have pretty much zero interest in VR gaming, it’s always good to have more competition.

    • Phil Culliton says:

      I had zero interest until I tried it with a game that I enjoyed – I’d been trying demos at GDC and other conventions for a couple years, etc., but nothing had clicked with me. I got it running with Subnautica, though, and I was sold.

  7. Solidstate89 says:

    I’m actually pretty happy to see these cheaper sets coming out and all built around a single standard as well. I really have little interest in VR for gaming (at least at the moment, maybe things will change) but the idea of these “social” rooms that I’ve seen look really cool. Especially those movie theater ones where you can watch your own media collection in a giant theater-style environment.

    Stuff like that seems really interesting and you don’t need a bleeding edge unit like a Rift or Vive to experience that.

  8. Faxanadu says:

    Honestly, the thing VR _really_ needs right now, is to solve the movement problem. The moment someone figures out how to pull off 1st person game movement without silly teleporters, is the moment VR will exploooooooode.

    Right now, the controls make everything outside standing still completely meh. Imagine if GTA, Counter-Strike, Subnautica etc. suddenly had to adapt to standing still. Yeah, would not be pretty.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      The community solved it months ago, but the developers haven’t caught up yet. They don’t want to admit that the moving bounding box with motion controls works very well when coupled with standard thumbstick controls (put another way, you move in real space for nearby interactions, and use the thumbsticks to walk greater distances or turn around quickly).

      They’re absolutely terrified that anyone might mention “motion sickness” even though it doesn’t seem to be an issue at all with a little practice. It’s holding VR back. We had to beg for smooth movement in Arizona Sunshine, and the game got 100 times better when they added it in.

      • Herring says:

        “doesn’t seem to be an issue at all with a little practice”

        That’s the key issue (at least as far as Valve is concerned). Anything that results in an a decent proportion of the population being nauseous initially won’t be the default controls. Valve is very hard-line about this (hence teleportation) but some people will add it as an option, just not the default.

        I think Valve are trying to lay the ground-work for VR being used in a broad-sense by a large community rather than the early-adopters we’ve got now(who know full-well what they’re getting into)

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          I’m saying it’s time to change it. Users are overwhelmingly saying that teleportation is a lousy movement mechanic. I’ve yet to meet a VR users who prefers it. I get Valve/Oculus’ concern, but they bet on the wrong horse.

  9. ByrdWhyrm says:

    I’m glad to see Microsoft entering the VR/AR space. Having another big name with both hardware and software experience is exciting, and I’ve been fascinated by the work they’ve been doing with the hololens. It’ll be interesting to see them turn the focus toward more consumer-level products.
    That said, most impressive in that announcement was the level of brandspeak present. I get the desire to have terms you can copyright, but sometimes you don’t have to invent a whole new lexicon to describe everything.

    • Themadcow says:

      The hololens is an amazing bit if kit. Trying it for the first time was like experiencing alien tech – I genuinely couldnt believe it was a standalone unit and not somehow linked to a supercomputer hidden somewhere in the house. If they can get the hololens tech and experience at consumer prices then it is the future.

  10. racccoon says:

    Are we humans so blind we can not see just how stupid VR is & looks.
    We have EYES! We don’t need to be blinded, unless we are blind then maybe VR might be of some use.

    • MrUnimport says:

      It’s not like you look very fashionable wearing headphones and staring at your computer screen. Are you planning on using this on the bus? No? Then who are these mysterious individuals who are going to stare at you in your own home and snicker about how dorky you look?

      • UnConsolable says:

        Yeah but those weird LED sparkly flan tin ‘motion controllers’?
        Even in my own home with no one looking, I’ll take a pass :P

  11. montfalcon says:

    This Microsoft Cliff House reminds me of a cross between Oculus Home and Microsoft Bob from 1995, where they abstracted various newly-introduced in Win95 features to a series of furnished rooms; clocks, calendars, notepads, globes, as well as introducing the dog assistant ‘Rover’ who most of us will remember from the fairly useless WinXP file search window.
    As an aside, this guy’s voice sounds disconcertingly like Frank Oz.

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