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Microsoft’s mixed-reality headsets aim to bridge gap between HoloLens and VR

Why it matters to you

Microsoft's mixed reality push is finally kicking into high gear with plans to hit retail shelves in 2018.

In late 2016, Microsoft announced a partnership with companies like Acer to bring Windows Mixed Reality to a broader audience. On Wednesday at the Game Developers Conference, Microsoft delivered on that promise, announcing that Windows Mixed Reality devkits will start shipping later in March.

The headsets will be among the first to deliver built-in inside-out tracking, so you won’t need to set up any lighthouses or external sensors. Microsoft claims that it will provide a plug-and-play setup forgoing any complicated calibration issues, but that will remain to be seen.

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“When we begin the phased rollout of the developer kits this month, the kits will include the Acer headset, along with documentation and access to Windows 10 Insider preview builds, and the software development kit to enable developers to build mixed reality applications,” wrote Alex Kipman, a Microsoft technical fellow.

In the same way that Asus, Acer, Dell, etc., produce Windows 10 laptops, Microsoft likely hopes getting the headsets out to developers first will kickstart mixed reality support. It is a different slightly different tack than VR headset manufacturers Oculus and HTC have taken with their own products.

“We’re also excited to share that Windows Mixed Reality experiences will light up on other devices over time, beyond desktop and Microsoft HoloLens. Our plan is to bring mixed reality content to the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio in 2018,” Kipman continued.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Development Edition headset

The first step in that plan? The Acer mixed reality headset, which Microsoft detailed at GDC on Wednesday. Not only will it feature built-in inside-out tracking, but two high-resolution LCD displays at 1440 x 1440, capable of a native 90 Hz refresh rate.

It’s exciting news for anyone interested in augmented reality or mixed reality, these new headsets follow Microsoft’s well-established strategy for inspiring and working with other companies to get Windows products in as many hands as possible.