Microsoft’s bid to bring Windows mixed reality to the masses is taking shape with a raft of affordable PCs. On Monday the company announced that its hardware partners will launch two types of mixed-reality PCs this holiday season, showing them off first at the IFA show this week in Berlin. The company also said its mixed-reality content would include Steam’s VR games and even some sort of Halo experience.
Microsoft has spent much of this year building up its mixed-reality ecosystem. The company has promised that mixed reality will be a key part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Working in concert, its hardware partners—HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Acer—plan to launch mixed-reality devices in time for the holidays.
Pricing is important: Acer’s headset, for instance, will be available for $299 without the controllers, undercutting the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. At its Build conference in May, Acer announced a $399 bundle of headset plus a set of motion controllers. Dell, announced that its own mixed-reality head-mounted display, the Dell Visor, will ship for $350 for just the headset, $100 for the controllers, and $450 for a bundle of all of them. Dell’s headset boasts a flip-up visor, and the controllers feature a thumb stick and buttons, according to Dell. Though all of Microsoft’s headsets are tethered to a PC via an HDMI cord, they can track movements in space without the need for external sensors.
Meanwhile, prices of mixed-reality-capable PCs begin at $499. Microsoft’s partners have yet to announce further specifics on those PCs, but we do knows they’ll be classified into two tiers. Windows Mixed Reality PCs with integrated graphics will run at up to 60 frames per second, while Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs with discrete graphics will provide up to 90 frames per second.
Why this matters: With mixed and virtual reality, vertigo is a real concern. A guaranteed 60fps experience might be tolerable for certain applications, provided you don’t move you head around too quickly. You’ll really want a PC with discrete graphics—an Ultra PC—for the best experience. Providing PCs purpose-built for mixed reality could help build user interest.
Microsoft tips some MR content partners
Microsoft released a sizzle reel of some of the available apps, which include Dreams of Dali, SuperHot VR, and GoPro 360-degree videos, among others. Microsoft said that “Steam content will also run on Windows Mixed Reality headsets,” though didn’t provide further clarification.
Microsoft also published a graphic of some of the developers who will be publishing apps to mixed reality. Note that they include a number of developers who already have published virtual-reality apps, or just apps for Windows.
One of those developers, Microsoft said, will be 343 Industries, the developers of the Halo series of games. There will be a Halo mixed-reality experience, Microsoft promised, without delving into more details.
Alex Kipman, the technical fellow at Microsoft who helped launch the HoloLens two years ago, called Microsoft’s reveal a “sneak peek into what you can expect this holiday,” he wrote in a blog post. “We are just getting started and we are honored to work with world class creators and developers.”