October 27, 2016

Microsoft Announces $299 VR Headsets, Lots of 3D Windows Features


During Microsoft’s big event this week, the tech giant made a few important 3D announcements.

Consumer VR Headsets

The company’s most exciting development is a line of consumer VR headsets for Windows 10. The headsets, which start at $299, will be produced by third-party partners like Acer, Asus, Lenovo, HP and Dell.

All of the VR headsets will include a built-in 3D tracking system. This will enable use of the devices without external tracking infrastructure like cameras, lasers, or other sensors to locate you in space.

Even the most tricked-out VR headsets will likely cost much less than Microsoft’s current HoloLens release, the $3000 developer’s kit. However, it’s important to note that the virtual reality headsets will offer a different experience than HoloLens.

The VR headsets will present access to a fully immersive digital environment, while HoloLens is a mixed or augmented reality technology that projects digital data on your view of the real world. There’s no doubt that the two products share a number of fundamental technologies, but the complex tracking and projection components of the HoloLens will likely make it the more expensive option.

Microsoft says the headsets will be available in 2017. They’re marketing the devices as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, which represents Microsoft’s big push toward 3D.

Microsoft goes big on 3D

Looking at all the other announcements Microsoft made during the event, it’s clear the company has decided to throw all their chips down on 3D. The company says it has designed Windows 10 to support devices like the HoloLens and the VR headsets, but also 3D content in general.

As a start in this move toward 3D, the “Creators Update” to the OS will feature 3D updates to perennial classics like Paint and Excel.

Explaining their motivations, Microsoft dropped the “D” word: Democratization. The idea is to make 3D creation available to everyone by bringing that capability to standard-issue operating systems rather than sequestering them in specialist software.


As Wired writes, the idea is that you could now “scan a pen on your desk, upload it to Paint, change the color of its body, set the digitized version down on your desk through HoloLens, switch headsets and see what it looks like in VR, and then decide (because pens are meant to be tangible objects) that you want to 3-D print the new design.”

An operating system developed to allow this kind of seamless movement between devices will likely have an energizing effect on the professional industry as well. Remember that the graphics capabilities we are now seeing in much of our favorite processing and visualization software and hardware were originally developed for video games. The technology follows the money, and once it exists we can get creative with it.

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