On October 26, 2016, election fever was in full swing, occupying the minds of not only most Americans, but many individuals worldwide.
Lost in the general chaos, however, was an announcement made via press conference by Microsoft, the long-standing tech titan, that they plan to formally lower the barrier to entry for consumer virtual reality (VR) headsets.
Coinciding with the new Windows operating system update next spring, Microsoft will partner with five large hardware manufacturers— HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo— to create tethered VR headsets for PCs, replete with six degrees of freedom, for as low as $299, hundreds of dollars less than what’s currently out there.
In less technical terms, this means that the headsets will be wired, working through your computer— as opposed to operating via a smartphone— and will not require external sensors or excessive space to function.
It cannot be understated how unprecedented these features are, as every VR product on the market up to this point has either required the user to install a “base station” or remain stationary while in use.
During their presentation, Microsoft showed off the ability to interact with Windows 10 apps projected onto a wall in virtual reality.
As with the election, this demonstration was perhaps overshadowed by Microsoft’s separate showcase of the HoloLens, their much-anticipated mixed reality smartglasses also slated for release next year, although at the exorbitant price of $3,000. It is said that some features from the HoloLens, such as voice and motion control, may make their way into Windows 10 VR headsets.
(Thankfully, the HoloLens did display itself as a product with much potential, which should be expected for an innovative tech gadget so costly. Amongst other features, it showed the ability to take images from the popular home improvement portal Houzz, and project them into your living room in 3D, along with the ability to virtually visit landmarks throughout the world via its HoloTour feature.)
Microsoft’s new software update, titled the Windows 10 Creators Update, will also bring a host of other features with it, including the expansion of the digital assistant Cortana to more devices.
The Redmond, WA-based corporation has stated that Cortana may play a significant role with their new VR headsets, particularly when using apps.