Windows Mixed Reality news: Here’s everything you need to know

Windows Mixed Reality gets real with SteamVR support, exclusive Microsoft games

Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform is finally starting to take shape. The platform’s software foundation was introduced in Windows 10 Creators Update in April 2017, and the Fall Creators Update has added some much needed polish. The hardware has caught up to the software with the release of a number of first-generation Windows Mixed Reality headsets from companies such as HP, Lenovo, and Dell. While they are just the first in a long line of Windows Mixed reality headsets, they offer a taste of what we can expect from Mixed Reality going forward.

Any time a new VR platform launches, there’s a lot to digest. So here’s everything you need to know about Windows Mixed Reality, and the latest Windows Mixed Reality news.

Windows Mixed Reality is really just (mostly) VR

Microsoft prefers the term “mixed reality,” or MR, and the company’s short definition of it is this. “Mixed reality is the result of blending the physical world with the digital world.” Rather than just adding artificial elements to a real scene as with augmented reality (AR), or creating a completely artificial environment as with virtual reality (VR), MR takes reality, digitizes it, and then places all or parts of it into a holographic environment that mimics the real world in real time. MR can be wholly immersive, or it can physically blend with a real-world view.

The following Microsoft video helps demonstrate the concept:

When we spent some time with the Acer Mixed Reality Headset, however, we found it to provide a more affordable VR experience, but to be lacking in actual MR functionality. When we asked Microsoft about this during an earlier demo a representative responded:

“While the upcoming Windows Mixed Reality headsets are closer to the full digital end of the spectrum, they do begin to incorporate elements of the physical world, such as environmental awareness and full 6DoF hand input via motion controllers. Furthermore, Windows Mixed Reality is a unified platform that spans the entire spectrum, enabling the upcoming headsets to elegantly interface with devices closer to the physical reality end of the spectrum, such as Microsoft HoloLens. Our vision has been clear from the start, and this is why we call all of it Windows Mixed Reality.”

In other words, the term “Windows Mixed Reality” includes everything from HoloLens, to apps like Windows Reality Viewer (previously called View 3D), to the upcoming Windows Mixed Reality headsets, all built on the Windows Mixed Reality software foundation. For the immediate future, Windows Mixed Reality refers to those headsets and the apps that are written to utilize them, but don’t be fooled, these are VR headsets first and foremost.

Windows Mixed Reality hardware

None of this is meaningful without the hardware to access Windows Mixed Reality, and on that front, the wait is over. The following are the headsets that have been officially announced, and the general minimum specifications are the same:

Displays: Two 2.89-inch high-resolution LCDs
Resolution: 1,440 x 1,440 each
Field of view: 95 degrees horizontal
Refresh rate: Up to 90Hz (native)
Ports: 1x HDMI 2.0
1x USB 3.0 Gen1 Type-A
1x headphone / microphone jack
Other features: Front hinged display
Detachable HDMI/USB combo cable
Insider-out tracking

Each of the headsets will offer Motion Controller support, but not every headset will ship with a pair in the box. The Dell Visor, for instance, offers them in a bundle for an extra $100. Otherwise, each of these headsets are close enough in features and functionality that choosing between them will likely come down to their looks, and perhaps some additional software provided by each manufacturer.

Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset

Acer Windows Mixed-Reality
Acer

Acer’s headset was the first full-fledged Windows Mixed Reality headset to hit the market, and it set the stage for the next few coming out at the end of 2017. In our opinion, the headset wasn’t comfortable enough or priced low enough compared to what else is available on the market. Check out our full review for our thoughts on how it stacks up to other premium VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Asus Windows Mixed Reality headset

Asus

Asus’ Windows Mixed Reality headset isn’t scheduled to arrive until December 2017, and it will be differentiated from the other headsets by its unique design, incorporating hundreds of 3D polygons for a glossy tone-on-tone effect. The headset will weigh less than 400 grams, and it will utilize a balanced crown design for greater comfort, by reducing pressure on the user’s face and nose.

Dell Visor

asus dell windows mixed reality headset

Dell named its Windows Mixed Reality headset the Visor, and it boasts an adjustable headband and extra cushioning for greater comfort. The Dell Visor is available today for $350, without controllers, or $450 with controllers.

Lenovo Explorer

Lenovo Explorer
Lenovo

The Lenovo Explorer is also available now, and it’s slightly differentiated from the others by building in support for a mouse and keyboard. In addition, Lenovo will be providing its own apps, along with access to more than 100 upscaled VR games, both of which will be accessible through its Lenovo Entertainment Hub. The Lenovo Explorer will weigh 380 grams, and is perhaps the most conservatively styled of the early Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

HP Windows Mixed Reality headset

HP

The HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset is available now, and it follows the same basic format as the rest of the Windows Mixed Reality stable. HP added in a knob to make adjusting headset size easier, and the design is relatively conservative, but otherwise, you won’t find much that’s different here.

Samsung Odyssey

Windows Mixed Reality

Microsoft announced the new Samsung Odyssey Mixed Reality headset at the October 3 event, and it brings some advantages over the other headsets. Most significantly, Samsung’s version offers larger and higher resolution AMOLED displays compared to the competition, at 3.5 inches and with a resolution of 1,440 x 1,600. The headset’s field of view is also greater at 110 degrees, versus the usual 95 degrees. Not surprisingly, the Samsung Odyssey is more expensive than the other headsets currently on the market, at $500 with controllers.

PC System Requirements

In order to connect a Windows Mixed Reality headset to your PC, you’ll be able to choose from two branded levels of PC that will provide for different levels of performance.

  • Windows Mixed Reality PCs: Desktop and laptops equipped with integrated graphics will be able to drive immersive content at 60 frames per second. Prices will start at $500.
  • Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs: Desktops and laptops equipped with discrete graphics will be able to run content at 90 frames per second.

Here are the specifications for each PC level:

Windows Mixed Reality PC

Performance:  90Hz
CPU: Intel Core i5 (NB), Intel Core i3 (DT)
GPU: Discrete Nvidia GTX 965M, AMD RX 460M
Connectivity: HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2
RAM: 8GB
Storage: More than 10GB additional free space
USB: USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C Port with DisplayPort
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories

Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PC:

Performance: 60Hz
CPU: Intel Core i5 (NB), Intel Core i3 (DT)
GPU: Integrated Intel HD 620
Connectivity: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2
RAM: 8GB
Storage: More than 10GB additional free space
USB: USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C Port with DisplayPort
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories

What content is coming for Windows Mixed Reality?

As we noted in our initial hands-on look at Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality headset, the platform will mainly provide a more affordable entry into the VR experience, and it will require less computing horsepower to get there. The overall experience will also be similar to that provided by other VR solutions like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. In fact, Microsoft and Valve announced that SteamVR titles will make their way to the Windows Mixed Reality platform on November 15. That means Windows Mixed Reality headsets will now have access to a lot of the same games and apps that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have.

In the meantime, Microsoft announced at IFA 2017 a host of developers who will be writing apps for the Windows Mixed Reality platform:

windows mixed reality steam partnership developer partnersIn addition, Microsoft also announced that its own game studio, Microsoft Studios, is currently developing multiple games exclusive to Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Speaking with UploadVR, a Microsoft spokesperson shared how important gaming would be on the platform:

“We have games from Microsoft Studios in development for Windows Mixed Reality, and several game developers are working closely with us to bring their titles to Windows Mixed Reality. Because of the opportunity with Windows Mixed Reality, and because we believe the user experience will be best on PC right now, that is where our focus is. We have nothing to share about mixed reality for console at this time.”

With a suitable PC and a Windows Mixed Reality headset, you’ll be able to enjoy VR environments that have good environmental awareness without needing add-on accessories. The headsets can map the environment using cameras and therefore don’t require external sensors, and their Motion Controller accessories provide for six degrees of freedom (6DoF) hand control. And, all of the software needed to create the VR environments is provided by the core Windows Mixed Reality software that’s already built into Windows 10.

According to Microsoft, over 20,000 Windows Mixed Reality apps and games are available in the Microsoft Store as of October 17. The list includes a host of some of the most popular VR titles, such as Obduction, Dreams of Dali, Space Pirate Trainer, Superhot, Arizona Sunshine, Luna, Skyworld, Move, Free the Night, Minecraft, and Fantastic Contraption.

windows mixed Reality virtual house environment

That means Mixed Reality still has a general emphasis on gaming like its competitors, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. In addition, you’ll be able to launch a number of Windows 10 apps from within the Mixed Reality portal,

Availability and Pricing

As mentioned earlier, most of these headsets are available now with the exception of the Asus Mixed Reality Headset.

Updated on November 15, 2017 by Jayce Wagner with latest pricing and availability.