Windows Mixed Reality: Will it Lure Consumers to Three-Dimensional Computing?

By Joseph Aruanno

While the current technological trends of Augmented and Virtual Reality are on the rise, there is still uncertainty on which of the various implementations will rise as the standard for general consumers. The stand-outs of the field include Facebook's Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, both of which require a costly investment for a computer powerful enough to support the headsets. In addition, these headsets require a specific set-up of the environment, such as external cameras or tracking devices. All of these issues prevent the technologies from being readily adopted by most consumers.

Oculus Rift HTC Vive Lenovo Explorer (Windows Mixed Reality)
Screen Resolution 2160 x 1200 2160 x 1200 2880 x 1440
Field of View 110 degrees 110 degrees 105 degrees
Refresh Rate 90 Hz 90 Hz 90 Hz
Tracking Methodology External cameras Inside-out tracking with external sensors required for room-scale VR Inside-out tracking via internal cameras and sensors
Price (including motion controllers) $399 $599 $399

Microsoft HoloLens

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has developed a solution that aims to minimize these barriers of entry, so that nearly anyone can join in this new technological trend. Initially titled "Windows Holographic," the Windows Mixed Reality platform allows for unified development across Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality devices. The initiative began on the Microsoft HoloLens device, an untethered PC worn as a visor that allows users to see the real world and what appear to be "holograms." This effect was implemented using inside-out tracking, the technology derived Microsoft's Kinect, allowing the computer to map the environment and lock virtual 3d-objects to the real-world environment through a translucent display. This effect tricks the mind into thinking the projections are reality. Since the computer runs Windows 10, the development environment would be identical to the Windows app development environment. The HoloLens development kit, however, launched at a cost of $3000 (where the price still is today).

Virtual Reality Headset

Credit: Microsoft

To allow for a lower entry cost, Microsoft expanded the "Windows Holographic" platform to virtual reality headsets. Windows Mixed Reality headsets launched at $300, 10x cheaper than the HoloLens, and allow for consumers to be a part of the Mixed Reality world with compatible computers starting at only $500. These headsets also implement the same tracking technology that the HoloLens device uses, therefore allowing the setup process to be quick and simple. We live in a three-dimensional world, and it's only a matter of time before modern computing takes full advantage of those three dimensions. Whether or not Microsoft has developed the platform that will spark the general public to adopt this new technology is hard to say, but they have certainly put their best effort forward to make it as easy as possible for anyone to get started in a high-quality mixed reality environment.

Windows Mixed Reality Ultra Requirements Windows Mixed Reality Requirements
Operating System Windows 10 Fall Creators Update - Home, Pro, Business, Education
Processor Intel Core i5 4590 (4th generation), quad core (or better) AMD Ryzen 5 1400 3.4Ghz (desktop), quad core (or better) Intel Core i5 7200U (7th generation mobile), dual core with IntelĀ® Hyper-Threading Technology enabled (or better)
RAM 8GB DDR3 (or better) 8GB DDR3 dual channel (or better)
Free disk space At least 10 GB
Graphics Card NVIDIA GTX 960/1050 (or greater) DX12-capable discrete GPU AMD RX 460/560 (or greater) DX12-capable discrete GPU GPU must be hosted in a PCIe 3.0 x4+ Link slot Integrated IntelĀ® HD Graphics 620 (or greater) DX12-capable integrated GPU (Check if your model is greater) NVIDIA MX150/965M (or greater) DX12-capable discrete GPU
Graphics Driver Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 2.2
Graphics display port HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2
Display Connected external or integrated VGA (800x600) display (or better)
USB connectivity USB 3.0 Type-A or Type-C
Bluetooth connectivity (for motion controllers) Bluetooth 4.0
Expected headset framerate 90 Hz 60 Hz

Works Cited

"Mixed Reality at Microsoft." Microsoft. Microsoft, n.d. Web.

Staff, Digital Trends. "Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices Are Lower, but Our Favorite Remains the Same." Digital Trends. N.p., 01 Sept. 2017. Web.

"Windows Mixed Reality." Microsoft. N.p., n.d. Web.

"Windows Mixed Reality Minimum PC Hardware Compatibility Guidelines." Microsoft. Microsoft, n.d. Web.