What is Windows Mixed Reality?
Iâve heard a lot about Microsoftâs Windows Mixed Reality, but up until this week Iâve been a little confused. Microsoft insists on calling its new headsets âMixed Realityâ ones, when theyâre really just virtual reality. At IFA in Berlin this week, Microsoft is showcasing all of its Mixed Reality headsets from PC makers like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Most of them are arriving next month, priced around $349 to compete with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. So what is Windows Mixed Reality really like? I got a chance to try it and find out.
Unlike some of the previous demonstrations of Windows Mixed Reality headsets, the experience now includes a portal and home area (Cliff House) where you can access games and apps. Itâs the most impressive part of Windows Mixed Reality for me, and it acts like a virtual living room of sorts. You can drag and drop holograms around just like you can in HoloLens, pin app s to walls, and thereâs 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, which is the ultimate meta moment. It sounds really gimmicky, but I spent about 20 minutes just standing there playing around with lots of regular Windows Universal Apps. Itâs a lot more fun than the mundane environment of my Oculus Rift at home, and Microsoft clearly wants this to be your hub for running its universal apps. If this gets good enough one day, I could see it replicating a multi-monitor setup for when youâre mobile.
A lot of the experience is made more powerful with the Mixed Reality motion controllers. They remind me of the Oculus Touch controllers I have at home, but they donât 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 the Oculus sensors. You donât need to do much setup for Windows Mixed Reality, apart from marking out your play area, but you can even avoid that if you stay in one spot.
The motion controllers have a Windows and menu button, a front trigger, a grip button, an analog stick, and even a little trackpad next to the stick. My colleague Adi Robertson best summed up these controllers by saying, "The shape felt a little too big for my hand.â I couldnât agree more. Despite Microsoft making keyboards and mice for more years than Iâve been alive, it really failed with the ergonomics here and itâs disappointing. The Oculus Touch controllers feel far more natural in your hands, whereas Microsoftâs are too long and have rough edges that push int o your palms.Grid View
Each Windows Mixed Reality headset maker is using Mi crosoftâs motion controller reference design and sticking their own logo on them, but thereâs no tweaking. I understand the need to keep controls similar across devices, but Iâd like to see different motion controllers here that keep the button layout and improve on the ergonomics.
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. I found the tracking super impressive and very accurate. I played Superhot and it accurately tracked my position every time I punched an enemy in the face. The only thing I wasnât able to test was a game like Robo Recall where you grab guns over your shoulders. Microsoftâs tracking works by picking up the controllers in front of you, but if you place them behind you then it canât see them. That shouldnât be a problem in most VR experiences; even if you physically turn around the motion controllers will still be tracked .
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. This early showing is impressive, though. Dellâs headset felt basic, but comfortable. I tried Acerâs earlier this year and I wasnât impressed with the build quality or comfort, but Dellâs and Lenovoâs are definitely more in line with what youâd get from a Vive or Rift. I didnât feel as fully immersed as those other headsets, though, and I think you really have to tighten the headset close to your eyes to improve that.
So, Mixed Reality is essentially virtual reality for Microsoft, for now. Microsoft has picked that name because it eventually wants to blend th e best of augmented and virtual reality into a single headset with support for multiple experiences. I think thatâs where the industry is ultimately heading, but the Mixed Reality naming sounds like itâs promising more than virtual reality right now. Itâs not, but Microsoftâs first stab is solid.
I was expecting cheaper headsets, but Oculus and HTC have both cut their prices recently ahead of Microsoftâs announcements, so it makes Windows Mixed Reality headsets not as cheap as they sounded earlier this year. Still, Acerâs headset will retail at $299, and HPâs at $329. Both Lenovo and Dell are selling their headsets for $349, while Asus is significantly more expensive at around $535. Microsoft is clearly aiming to bring virtual â" sorry, I mean Mixed Reality â" to the masses, and it now needs to convince game developers and all headset makers to support its platform.
Photography by Tom Warren / The Verge
In this Storystream< /h2>
IFA Berlin 2017: the best phones, laptops, headphones, and everything else from Europeâs biggest tech show View all 34 stories
Next Up In Tech
- Audio-Technica X5000 hands-on: audiophile headphones for real humans
- Sharp announces an 8K TV now that youâve upgraded to 4K
- Windows 10âs Fall Creators Update arrives on October 17th
- Microsoft reveals release date for Windows Mixed Reality headsets
- This modular soft robot can be slotted together as easily as Lego
- A BB-9E teardown only the dark side could enjoy
Command Line delivers daily updates from the near-future.This Article has a component height of 26. The sidebar size is long.Source: Google News