While everyone expected a HoloLens update to play a part in Microsoft’s big Windows 10 event on Wednesday, nobody expected the announcement of a new range of virtual reality (VR) headsets.
A great deal of surprise came from the uniqueness of the devices, which sets Microsoft in line to become one of the top players in the market. The technology developed for these headsets could give Microsoft a distinct advantage over existing solutions.
Today’s mobile headsets, like Gear VR and Daydream View, can track your head’s rotation, but not its position in space, which leads to a stationary experience. PC-powered VR, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, can track both head rotation and position, but require the use of extra “base stations” that cast out visible laser beams to keep tabs on your movement across space.
The Creators Update promised to be the most powerful and affordable way to experience mixed reality. Microsoft announced that HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer and ASUS will ship the first VR headsets capable of mixed reality through the Creators Update. Windows chief Terry Myserson says the new Windows 10 powered VR headsets use “inside-out six-degree-of-freedom sensors.” That means they’ll be able to track their own position with internal sensors, negating the need for base stations and dedicated VR spaces. This brings added freedom for simplified setup and to more easily move around your home as you experience virtual worlds —no markers required. No currently available VR headset offers that flexibility.
The new Windows 10 VR headset will provide a different experience from the HoloLens, which overlays 3D holograms atop the real world, but it uses similar controls such as voice commands and hand gestures.
These headsets are also cheaper than the current competition. Starting at just $299, they may be the good deal a lot of enthusiasts are waiting for. Microsoft has not revealed a release date, but we can expect the first headsets to hit the market early 2017.