Microsoft (MSFT) has a plan to save VR — low-cost headsets and slick new controllers. Microsoft has been focusing on mixed reality (MR). MR can best be described as a cross between AR and VR, where the real and virtual worlds collide. Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headsets will soon to be made available from manufacturers such as HP, Acer, Lenovo and Dell priced between $350 and $499.
Microsoft is promising to “democratize virtual reality this holiday”. To that end, Microsoft and its partners are announcing affordable headsets that are easy to set up. The easy-to-set-up part is courtesy of Microsoft’s inside-out tracking, wherein sensors mounted on the headset are used for motion tracking as well as 3D mapping, both of which are required for a great VR/AR/MR experience.
According to Microsoft’s blog, PCs with integrated graphics should be able to power an MR experience at 60 fps. PCs that are more powerful should be able to power MR at 90 fps and will be classified as ‘Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs’.
Adding to the cost reduction is the fact that Microsoft’s devices will work on a slew of laptops and PCs, not just high-end systems like the Rift and Vive. During my brief time with an Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset, a Microsoft rep lets me play while connected to a high-powered laptop with a dedicated graphics chip, then switched the same headset over to a laptop with a less powerful integrated chip.
You’ll still be limited in terms of the games you can play with your headset, of course. A PC with integrated graphics won’t exactly be able to play the latest and greatest titles, but you’ll still get at least some functionality out of it.