Microsoft is launching “affordable and easy-to-use” mixed reality headsets that will include content from the Steam gaming platform and Halo franchise.
While the company’s HoloLens, which is aimed at developers and used by NASA and Audi among others, costs thousands of pounds, the new headsets and motion controller bundle will be priced at £399.
Microsoft said a range of devices and motion controllers from HP, Lenovo, Dell and Acer will be released in the coming months.
The company has led the way in mixed-reality technology since unveiling HoloLens 2015. Rather than place users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them.
The Windows-10-based product does not have wires or external cameras, or require a phone or PC connection. Users can walk around the objects they create and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.
‘Mixed reality is the future’
“Mixed reality is the future, and we want everyone on the journey with us,” Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft, said in a blog post.
“For customers, we are creating the best, most affordable mixed-reality headsets and bringing you immersive experiences that you will love. For developers, we are making it easy to create great content spanning from simple augmented reality to virtual reality and, of course, holograms.”
The headsets will be the first to deliver virtual reality experiences with built-in sensors to track your physical position without users needing to buy and install external sensors in their room.
“You don’t need to spend hours to set up a single room in your house with a large play space, just plug and play,” Kipman added. This also makes the headsets portable, so they can be carried to work.
They can be used with Windows Mixed Reality PCs – desktops and laptops with integrated graphics that enable the headsets to run at 60 frames per second – and Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs – desktops and laptops with discrete graphics that allow the headsets to run at 90 frames per second.
A series of content partners will be creating experiences for their mixed reality platform. These include 343 Industries, the videogame developer behind the hugely popular Halo franchise. Kipman said Microsoft was “working with 343 Industries to bring future Halo experiences into mixed reality”, but did not reveal specifics of the tie-up.
Steam content will also run on the headsets. “Virtual reality enthusiasts know that Steam is a great place to enjoy cutting-edge immersive experiences. We can’t wait to bring their content to you,” Kipman said.