What’s great about virtual reality is that you can get the full-body building experience in Minecraft given the blocky world consumes your entire field of view. The drawback is that you don’t have visual access to the real world without lifting the headset up enough to peek into reality or completely removing the device altogether. Microsoft has a fix for this problem, at least for Windows Mixed Reality headsets, with the latest Insider Preview builds of Windows 10.
Available in Build 17723 in the Fast Ring and Build 18204 for Skip Ahead participants, Flashlight simply opens a visual portal into the real world, so you can see what’s going on outside the virtual environment without fully breaking the experience. With the press of a button, a voice command or Start menu shortcut, you can see who’s running through your play area or to quickly scan the environment.
Each Windows Mixed Reality headset includes two built-in visible-light low-resolution cameras to determine your location in the physical environment, removing the need for external cameras/sensors as seen with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Now when you click an assigned button on a controller, one camera provides a video feed of reality through an oval portal rendered within the virtual world. This view follows the controller as if you were shining a flashlight into reality.
Right now there are six Windows Mixed Reality headsets costing either $200 or $400, depending on the model (motion controllers included). They’re the “third” entry into the VR market with the Microsoft Store serving as the base distribution platform. The HTC Vive is based on Steam whereas the Oculus Rift has its proprietary Oculus Home. SteamVR for Windows Mixed Reality is currently in beta.
Outside the new Flashlight feature, the two new Windows Insider builds retire the XSS filter in Microsoft Edge and introduce new Group Policies and MDM settings for IT management. You will also find 157 new emoji stemming from Unicode 11. Microsoft even made a few tweaks to existing emoji and ninja cats.
Microsoft improved the update experience as well that uses a trained predictive model to determine the right time to restart your Windows 10 PC. According to the company, “we will not only check if you are currently using your device before we restart, but we will also try to predict if you had just left the device to grab a cup of coffee and return shortly after.”
Finally, the latest builds throw the Game bar into the Start menu while keeping the Win + G keyboard shortcut intact. If you’re running a kiosk, Microsoft improved the setup experience via a simplified assigned access configuration page. Additional improvements to time accuracy and traceability include Leap Second support, software timestamping, and a new precision time protocol.