Mixed reality has big potential to revolutionize industry with the ability to help train new workers and to bring gaming into your home in a new way.
Did Microsoft make a mistake by labeling its brand of immersive digital experiences "mixed-reality"? (Even the popular and somewhat less powerful Samsung Galaxy Gear VR, which uses a phone to power VR experiences, benefits greatly from the recent introduction of a handheld controller.) For Microsoft's Mixed Reality headsets, the motion controllers have just as big of an impact.
The Redmond, Wash-based tech giant announced Monday that its holiday season foray into what it calls mixed reality will be marked by $399 headset/controller bundles from partners such as HP, Lenovo, Dell and Acer, along with a selection of games and other VR experiences. "I am also thrilled about our collaboration with Microsoft and to be at the forefront of technology with the ASUS Windows Mixed Reality Headset that enables users to explore real and virtual worlds like never before".
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Internally, it sports the same specs as other mixed reality headsets. "Along with our partners, we are committed to making mixed reality affordable".
Microsoft is also promising that the new headsets will be more accessible than their high-end rivals by being as close to plug-and-play as possible. The question isn't so much whether an integrated GPU can run VR, but what kind of quality sacrifices will be required to run it well, and whether we'll ever see games support this beyond the simplest titles. VR and mixed reality are similar in that both have virtual constructs in them, but in VR everything that the user of the tech sees is virtual whereas mixed reality overlays virtual objects with your real world environment. At its Build conference in May, Acer announced a $399 bundle of headset plus a set of motion controllers. Microsoft claims that Mixed-Reality PCs will run MR experience to the tune of 60 frames per second while Ultra PC will deliver 90 fps.
Meanwhile, prices of mixed reality-capable PCs begin at $499. Microsoft has, and the ease of use that results is probably the clearest differentiating factor it has from the broader competition.