Microsoft held an invite only event at their Microsoft Reactor spaces in San Francisco yesterday and it was hosted by Microsoft's Alex Kipman who leads the companies Hololens and Mixed Reality efforts.
The event was a coming out of sorts for Windows Mixed Reality and its role in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that will be released on 17 October 2017.
You might recall that the first official public mentions of Windows Mixed Reality was from Microsoft during last year's Surface Studio Launch in New York City when the company talked about a partnership with OEMs to produce head mounted displays that would interface with Windows 10 and create a virtual environment on your PC when it received the Creators Update.
Well that hardware and software was the subject of a couple more announcements over the next few months including COMPUTEX and CES 2017. However, when the Creators Update rolled out in April of this year it had the software part of Windows Mixed Reality in the operating system but the hardware was no where in sight for users.
Following the release of the Creators Update, we next heard about Windows Mixed Reality at Build 2017 in May out in Seattle. It was then that the first hardware was finally available for pre-order to developers, the Acer and HP HMDs, and we were introduced to the Windows Mixed Reality Controllers that would be available later this year. The pre-ordered HMDs finally shipped around the beginning of August 2017 and we were finally able to unbox and try one of them out in Windows Mixed Reality in a pre-release build of the Fall Creators Update.
Since then there has been a steady stream of unveilings at various industry events for the other HMDs built by Microsoft's partner OEMs.
That brings us to the Mixed Reality Event held out in San Francisco this week and the associated news from Microsoft about the combination of the hardware and software finally coming together in the Fall Creators Update.
Kipman kicks things off by talking about how Mixed Reality will evolve the computing experience we have today on our devices and shared the companies approach to a meaningful application of this capability:
-- Embrace the entire continuum from augmented reality to virtual reality and everywhere in between
-- Build cutting-edge devices and the technologies that power them, such as HoloLens
-- Create a unified platform for applications and the services to target
He then introduced the latest and most advanced of the HMDs that are available for Windows Mixed Reality - the Samsung HMD Odyssey. Here is the description from Samsung Electronics America VP and GM Alanna Cotton:
"When we began designing and engineering the Samsung HMD Odyssey with Microsoft, there was only one goal in mind, create a high performing headset that’s easy to set up and can transport people to the incredible world of virtual reality. Powered with dual AMOLED displays which Samsung is known for, that result in vivid colors and the highest resolution in the industry, built-in spatial AKG headphones, inside-out tracking, built-in microphone, and quick, responsive motion controllers, the Samsung HMD Odyssey immerses users with a 110° field of view as they discover the new frontier of Windows Mixed Reality. Samsung is committed to working across platforms to build cutting-edge technology, and we’re excited to partner with Microsoft to shape the future of virtual reality. But most of all, we can’t wait for you to take the Samsung HMD Odyssey out for a spin, and see it for yourself.”
All of the specifications are here on Samsung's Odyssey product page. The high end head mounted display and a set of Microsoft Mixed reality Controllers will set you back $499.99.
Samsung Odyssey HMD and Windows Mixed Reality Controllers
In addition to the new hardware, Microsoft also shared that more than 20,000 apps in the Microsoft Store will be available for Windows Mixed reality users to use on 17 October when the Fall Creators Update is released globally.
Gaming is also an important element of Windows Mixed Reality and users will find Halo: Recruit available for a free download that will give you a unique mixed reality view of the Halo universe at no cost. One of the titles you will find in the Windows Store for a mixed reality headset in the Fall Creators Update is the very popular Minecraft.
In addition, Microsoft and Valve are working together to deliver SteamVr content to Windows Mixed Reality Headsets. Developers can already gain access to the SteamVR preview to begin trying things out and consumers will get the preview later this year during the holidays.
These days something is almost not a real product unless it has a social component so Microsoft has gone out and acquired AltspaceVR to deliver not only social connectivity with family and friends but entertainment including large scale events that you can virtually join.
Finally all of these new features and services are not worth much without the hardware so all of the HMDs are now available for pre-order with availability on 17 October 2017. One exception to that is the new Samsung Odyssey which will be available on 06 November 2017.
Note: You can check your systems readiness for mixed reality using the Windows Mixed Reality PC Check app.