There were a lot of announcements made at Microsoft’s Surface event, but they weren’t all related to Surface. Microsoft is jumping into the VR playground and intends to dominate the market with affordable VR headsets built by its army of OEMs.
Starting sometime in 2017, companies such as HP, Lenovo, Acer, Dell, and ASUS are going to sell VR headsets for as little as $300 – Microsoft will help them with any initial research and development goals, and by building VR features right into Windows with the upcoming Curators update.
That’s not it, though; Microsoft also says that these headsets are going to support “mixed reality” instead of merely virtual reality. It’s not just VR we are talking about, but AR as well.
The plans make sense, as Microsoft’s HoloLens is targeting towards the enterprise – that’s the only thing justifying its $3,000+ price tag.
The devil is in the details
There is not much clear or confirmed about these headsets beyond what we mentioned. Yeah, $300 AR+VR headsets sound great, but what’s the experience going to be like? Here’s what Microsoft said in its official announcement:
Coming in 2017, these accessories will contain built-in sensors to enable inside-out, six-degrees of freedom for simplified setup and to more easily move around your home as you experience virtual worlds —no markers required.
At the event, Microsoft also mentioned that these devices would work with affordable laptops and PCs – unlike the current big players like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive who require a massive investment not only for the VR headset but also for the machine powering them.
However, this could also mean that Microsoft’s VR headsets are going to deliver an inferior experience – like the Samsung Gear VR.
Microsoft claims that these headsets are going to use inside-out tracking with six-degrees of freedom – this has not been achieved even by the established players yet. Oculus has a functioning model with the Santa Cruz prototype, but it’s still a prototype.
Microsoft clearly has ambitious plans, and with the money and weight it can afford to put down – there’s surely going to be some competition for Oculus and HTC in the coming months.