Today at the Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Engineering Community event in Shenzhen, China, the company announced that VR/AR (mixed reality) headsets from top manufacturers are due to hit the market in 2017. What’s more, they’ll run on integrated Intel graphics without the need for a dedicated GPU.

Back in October, Microsoft announced that mixed reality headsets for Windows’ forthcoming native headset integration were in development by five major hardware makers: Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Today the company confirmed those headsets will hit the market in 2017. The cheapest among them is said to start at just $300. Chinese VR headset maker 3Glasses has also joined the group, and will support the Windows mixed reality environment on their S1 VR headset in the first half of 2017, according to Microsoft. Microsoft’s HoloLens of course will also be in the mix.

There’s no word on what specifications these new headsets will bring to the table, but Microsoft has said they will be equipped with inside-out positional tracking (which doesn’t require external sensors like we see with the Rift and Vive today).

microsoft vr headsets

These headsets are being designed to work with the forthcoming Windows 10 Creator Update, which is slated to hit users for free this Spring. The headsets will be able to natively tap into the ‘Windows Holographic’ environment, and run more than 20,000 flat Windows apps, which may also be designed to extend into the virtual environment.

 

Microsoft and Intel have partnered on a platform specification for these headsets such that they’ll be able to “scale across mainstream Intel architecture platforms natively on [Intel’s CPU-integrated] HD Graphics,” by the end of 2017. That means no need for a high-end dedicated GPU as is required for the current generation of PC-based VR headsets. We noted last month that the apparent Windows Holographic minimum spec was surprisingly low. With more than 400 million Windows 10 users, this push could bring VR to a massive audience.

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Now, there’s no telling if the headsets running on Intel’s integrated graphics will be able to power the sort of high-end gaming experiences we see today with PC-based VR headsets. It may be that the companies are lowering the quality bar somewhat in an effort to support a basic VR/AR experience across a wider range of PCs with applications that aren’t as graphically demanding. That said, what the companies have shown off so far is very impressive for integrated graphics. Microsoft claimed that the experience shown below is running on a tiny Intel NUC PC with integrated graphics at 90 FPS:

Only time will tell what level of VR/AR/MR we can expect from integrated graphics and Windows Holographic. It’s likely that a high-end GPU will always be able to push the graphical bar for such experiences much higher, just as has always been the case for PC graphics, but even access to a basic VR experience for a much broader group of users would be a great thing for the growing space.

Now we’re wondering how Microsoft will tie in its next Xbox, ‘Project Scorpio’ which the company says will run high fidelity VR gaming experiences.

  • user

    windows failed as a mobile os so microsoft tries to push stand-alone headsets instead of a combination of a mobile phone and a headset. and microsoft will fail again.

    • hyperskyper

      Mobile VR is extremely limiting and will be far behind desktop/laptop VR in quality for a long time.

      • user

        do you think that the “Intel Integrated Graphics” are better than mobile vr?

        • Jim Cherry

          battery powered mobile vr without 6 degree motion is worse than intergrated battery powered 6 degree motion vr.

          • user

            you compare current mobile tech with a future standalone headset. inside out tracking for mobile vr is on its way.

          • Jim Cherry

            I’m comparing current mobile tech with a future non standalone group of headsets. If i wanted to compare current to current i would be comparing the holo lens to something like the gear which isnt a great comparison either.

          • user

            oh wow. i misread what these headsets are. i thought they will only run on chips with intel integrated graphics which are inside the headsets.

        • hyperskyper

          Yes. Only the very high end (for integrated graphic, of course) are supported. The graphics on the Surface Pro 4 aren’t even good enough.

          • user

            it supports intel hd 620 and according to
            http://kyokojap.myweb.hinet.net/gpu_gflops/
            it has less gflops (384~403.2) than a snapdragon 820 (407.4~498.5). and the snapdragon 835 will be about 25% faster than the 820.

    • matnojje

      I’m an android guy but windows next phones will be able to run full pc x86 apps so i might get one.

      • user

        i doubt that the majority of the users need apps which arent available for android. it’s a niche product.

        • matnojje

          True but i would love to have a full fat photoshop on my phone, but i might just by a core m tablet instead.

          • user

            maybe photoshop will come to the next version when android and chrome os are fused together.

          • matnojje

            Yea that would be awesome.

    • Jim Cherry

      ms mentioned mobile phone vr in the keynote and the alcatel idol 4 which comes with a vr viewer is available running windows aswell as android. So they arent ignoring any part of the vr ar market which means they fail as much as google does.

      • user

        whats your point? windows mobile’s market share is below 1%. thats why they cant do the rational thing and sell headsets which use handsets. ofc they dont ignore this possibiloty. its just that for them it isnt a possibility.

        • Jim Cherry

          my point is the holo lens headsets havent failed yet. Windows mobile failed and will continue to do so cause android and ios won.

        • Texazzpete

          What does this have to do with windows mobile? Why this mindless trolling ?

    • Craig Arend

      Mobile VR/AR/MR is VR on training wheels. VR is about immersion. You don’t get that from a phone. By the time 5G network infrastructures by Telecoms are built and by the time Thermal over heat issues with inside out positional tracking associated with mobile are resolved, Microsoft will have built an install base that scales across both VR AND AR. Manufacturing costs will optimize as fast as telecom 5G and overheat issues resolve. Those optimized savings will scale across 5 HMD manufacturing partners too. The cost savings to the consumer to enter into an ecosystem that supports superior immersive VR AND AR experiences makes Microsoft HMD’s, not mobile VR the winner.

      • user

        on the other hand, look what mobile has done in less than 10 years. two thirds of all devices that are shipped nowadays are android / ios.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    I like this for getting VR more mainstream even fi they aren’t going to be high performance in graphics.

  • Nicholas

    Looks good – if it’s real. Not exactly high polygon count stuff though, and I’m not seeing any tracked controllers other than what’s effectively a Daydream remote?

  • Skippy76

    Looks cute and all but I don’t expect any raw data type games to run on this. Maybe only cheesy desktop apps and 3D youtube videos. Similar to what gear VR can handle.

  • Augure

    I don’t like Microsoft, I think it’s an horribly untalented company today, but…they are doing a better job than Facebook and HTC here (while taking a huge advantage over Apple like Android did with the Gear).

    THIS is exactly how VR headset should start to look-like and be used for.

    They mainly seem to adopt PSVR headband “put&look” design, they have inside out-tracking components which simultaneously adds external tracking, environment tracking, head and motion tracking, hand and object interaction and the thousands of possible applications of mainstream AR which I won’t list, AND there’s none of that “minimum requirement super power VR” bullshit, because YES, ultimately VR is just a visual interactive interface device which displays two slightly different frames of which the performance should vary but work on any of the different hardware you choose to use.

    • user

      ? the tracking solutions of vive and rift are better.
      the fps and screen size standards are better too.

      • Augure

        They are absolutely fucking crap. First just for the fact that they are external tracker, and if the Oculus is simple but very limited and hazardous, Vive is a disastrous practical cable mess even though it’s a cool experimentation mess.

        As for fps and screen-size standards, they’re not remotely important as they depend on the processing machine and can be customised however one want (putting a large 4K screen is already possible and near).

        The fact that these just work over one cable and integrate the single most important, versatile and enabling component for VR which is an external tracking package far outweighs any superficial (because easily changed) limitations.

        • user

          standards: i always thought its a good thing that devs know what is seen as the standard system requirements and how many fps on how many pixels they build for.

          tracking: you dont even know how robust the inside out tracking is but you are already sure that a couple of cables on external tracking solutions make them worse?

          • Augure

            1. Yes, I agree.

            2. Yes, I’m already sure of that.

        • SHunter

          This thing is a Joke. Your really want to spend your day in this just to sift through email? Type Much? they didn’t show you that in the trailer above did they. Or hey lets make calendar appointments. What the living shit. No one wants to do basic desk work in a shitty helmet that portrays some stupid virtual dog.. ENOUGH With the goddam virtual assistants MS. Didnt you have enough fail with Clippy and Power Pup?

          • Texazzpete

            As opposed to what? Gaming? LOL

            VR is useful for much more than gaming. With these, people can watch 360 3D videos, go on virtual tours, multitask with virtual monitors, possibly use apps like google earth etc.

            Don’t be down on this just because you lack imagination.

          • SHunter

            So you are essentially saying VR/AR is for entertainment. Precisely the point im trying to make. NO ONE wants to sift through email and make calendar appointments in VR/AR. You can get productivity tasks done WAY faster outside of VR. Email was not designed for VR nor was VR designed for Email. MS is shoe-horning shit into Holo instead of creating apps specifically designed for its device.

          • Texazzpete

            So not just lacking in imagination, you’re also ignorant and uninformed.
            Microsoft has demonstrated tons of apps for Hololens and Windows Holographic and the VAST MAJORITY of them have been games, entertainment and educational apps like Conker, Minecraft, Fragments, NASA Mars simulator etc. They’ve also pushed out devkits to developers who are creating apps specifically for their device.

            Their VR devices will have enough power to run many entertainment apps and games…with full positional tracking.

            It is embarrassing for you to cling to a single demo video showing someone using their email in VR (made possible via extra virtual monitors!) and continue to parrot nonsense that this is the sole intent for this device.

            Basically, you’re saying VR headsets are ‘a joke’.

          • SHunter

            Correction. Hololens is a joke. Its just an excuse for MS to push their production apps into a headset. Most VR apps are in their Infancy stage at creating a USEFUL VR interface. Quill and Tilt Brush come to mind for excellent VR interfaces. Hololens needs VR developers to create apps for VR. WHat it doesnt need is Windows Application developers forcing conventional desktops apps into VR.

          • Augure

            HoloLens is shit because they are advertising a prototype that is 10-15 years aways from matching even the current VR headset, as an actual usable product.

            VR should already be or is 2/3 years from being better to use as a visual interface than screens.

          • CaptainAwesomer

            You take back those mean words you said about Clippy and Power Pup, TAKE THEM BACK!

          • Augure

            Yeah right? Also fuck smartphone I’d rather use a Palm because they have a stylus I’m sure works. Also screw laptops, it’s not powerful enough so I rather carry a whole PC tower with me?

            Actually, that’s part of my point: nobody wants to use VR for working NOW. And that’s a problem: VR headset are unusable gadget crap, partly because of the wires, and trackers, but also the lack of interaction and finer image quality and external/see-through integration.

            But in 10 years from now if it DOES pick-up now, who the fuck wouldn’t want to work on a physical, expensive, heavy, power hungry screen limited in frame, position, interaction and resolution when you can summon with your hands an infinity of screens, of whatever size, position, format, in fact you don’t even need to use a screen because you are visually interacting with a full 3D space…

  • Tyrus Gail

    We don’t have screens to create VR yet, so… great idea, but no. If it will be so poor like in cv1 or vive… give it a rest.