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Windows Mixed Reality, VR by another name
September 10, 2017, 1:48 pm

Microsoft insists on calling its new headsets ‘Mixed Reality’, but they work the same as any virtual reality (VR) headset. Microsoft has picked that name because it eventually wants to blend the best of VR and augmented reality (AR) into a single headset with support for multiple experiences. Combination of the two realities is where the industry is headed and Microsoft probably wanted to get a ‘head’ start.

At the recently concluded IFA in Berlin, Microsoft showcased Mixed Reality headsets from other PC vendors such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Most of them are expected to hit retail shelves next month at a price range of around $350 to compete with existing segment leaders Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

The most impressive part of Windows Mixed Reality is that the experience now includes a portal and home area (Cliff House) where you can access games and apps. You can drag and drop holograms around just like you can in HoloLens, pin apps to walls, and there is also a separate cinema room for watching TV shows or movies.

You can even run a virtual version of your actual desktop and control it through the headset. Microsoft clearly wants this to be your hub for running its universal apps. If this gets good enough, one day it could replicate a multi-monitor setup for when you are mobile.

Making the Mixed Reality experience more powerful are motion controllers that do not need any external sensors. That means you can plug these headsets into a laptop using just an HDMI and USB port instead of the two additional USB 3.0 ports required for some other headsets. You also do not need to do much setup for Windows headsets, apart from marking out your play area, and you can even avoid that if you stay in one spot.

Each motion controller also has an assortment of white LEDs at the top, allowing the sensors on the front of each Mixed Reality headset to track them. The tracking was super impressive and very accurate. Microsoft will also support SteamVR games and apps or games from the Windows Store, so there should be a good selection that will hopefully improve in time.

The only thing that Microsoft now needs is to convince game developers and all headset makers to support its platform.

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