While Microsoft has been full steam ahead on the augmented reality side of Windows Mixed Reality via HoloLens, the company has had very little to say in the last year about the VR side of its platform. While it may look like Microsoft has largely given up on the effort, the company tells us that it remains committed.

In late 2017 Microsoft launched its Windows Mixed Reality platform, a software foundation built into Windows 10 which supports VR headsets. The company also convinced a handful of its major PC partners—Dell, Lenovo, Acer, HP, Samsung, and Asus—to launch VR headsets attached to the platform.

For the most part all of those headsets offered up identical specs, with the only differences being in outward design (Samsung went a bit further with different displays and lenses), leaving little to differentiate them. Though the Windows VR headsets were the first out of the gate with inside-out tracking, they struggled to compete with incumbents on consumer value, especially in the content department, with many users skipping the Microsoft Store in favor of the much richer content library of SteamVR.

The headsets saw some traction initially, especially as retail discounts made them an attractive budget option. Windows VR headsets peaked at 11.13% of the share of headsets in use on Steam in June 2019, but have been slowly declining since then, down to 8.05% as of January, 2020.

Data courtesy Valve

Only two of the initial five Windows VR headset makers followed up their initial headsets with new consumer-facing devices (Samsung’s Odyssey+ and HP’s Reverb). Though they brought some improvements to the table, there’s a widespread feeling that essential elements of these headsets—the tracking and controllers—are ‘last-gen’ compared to contemporary devices.

It’s those very elements which Microsoft has not moved forward since the launch of the Windows VR headsets in late 2017. As the key contributor of the initial reference design (which includes the inside-out tracking system and corresponding controllers) that the Windows VR headsets were based on, Microsoft has shown little interest in modernizing the system so that headsets from its partners can better compete with the likes of Facebook, Valve, and HTC.

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But has Microsoft simply given up on Windows VR? You might think so, given the silence over the last year, the apparent discontinuation of all of the original WMR headsets, and the cancellation of Acer’s latest Windows VR headset.

But Microsoft maintains it’s still actively invested in Windows VR. When pressed on the matter—including questions about plans to modernize the tracking system for increased coverage, improve the bulky controllers, and sort out the platform’s VR content strategy—Microsoft didn’t want to talk specifics, but assured us that it hasn’t given up.

“[…] Microsoft remains invested in improving the underlying [hardware] platform, Windows Mixed Reality, and look forward to what the future will hold for the industry,” a spokesperson told Road to VR. “We continue to believe that end-users will be interested in taking part in mixed reality through a variety of different entry points along the spectrum, inclusive of virtual reality, augmented reality and everything in between.”

The company also remains committed to the Windows Mixed Reality plugin for SteamVR, which is the essential bridge that allows Windows VR headsets to access Steam content, including the upcoming Half-Life: Alyx.

“As we discussed at MWC 2019,” the spokesperson said, “we continue to develop with the idea of #Open at the forefront—in which we believe that for an ecosystem to truly thrive there should be no barriers to innovation or customer choice.”

It’s not much to go on, but Microsoft tells us there’s more to come for Windows VR, and it’ll have more to say when the time is right.

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  • NooYawker

    Samsung could be a big player if they really wanted to. The odyssey from what I’ve seen is the best wmr available and it doesn’t seem like they’re really trying.

    • Immersive Computing

      I got to finally try Samsung Odyssey a few weeks ago, which was never distributed in Europe…tried at Samsung experience store in London. Who said Odyssey wasn’t part of product range for Europe no other explanation.

      Impressive headset with good OLED display and welcome IPD adjustment, though I was using FANATEC motion simulator so WMR controllers not present. Great sound from AKG headphones which did a great job of blocking background noise inside busy store.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65905de5221793f1893619e25a020c86be419e6b478108863e98326928dcff88.jpg

      • NooYawker

        Now imagine what they could create if they decided to put some real money into their VR division.

        • Immersive Computing

          Redditor mentioned before Christmas his corporate company using Reverbs had visit from HP talking roadmap for multiple camera WMR. Perhaps we’ll see HP and Samsung headsets?

      • david vincent

        Indeed, Odyssey+ and Reverb are great headsets for simmers (who don’t need hand tracking).

    • Adderstone VR
    • sfmike

      There still isn’t enough profit in VR to make it worthwhile to these major corporations. Lose money for a quarter on a project and you are out the door.

  • wow

    Kind of annoying that MS doesn’t update things. Hopefully the VR thing is in regards to PC/Xbox series x

    • kakek

      They explicitely said they have no VR plan for XseX.

      • wow

        Hopefully they change their mind. Because the next console will definitely be powerful enough.

        • Sandeman21

          It’s not about power, but about profitability.
          PSVR is helping PS appear more “advanced” and it is helping from a PR and Marketing aspect but overall, the profit margins for PSVR are tiny and it is but a small uptick in their bottom line which can only be performed at the scale of PS4 user base.

          • wow

            If they make the next gen WMR reality available for Xbox and PC they would sell like crazy, like the current half-baked/nonsupported ones did originally.
            I think MS has the most flex to get VR mainstream.

          • Sandeman21

            Again, there is no such thing as “selling like crazy” when it comes to VR. :D

            And believe me, I would be very happy if that was true. But it is not. Maybe in the future.

          • wow

            I am a MS fan but I actually think XBseriesX will lose the next console war. Phil Spencer keeps stating that the XBsX will not support VR.
            VR is now able to blow people away, it is not a beta/enthusiast type product anymore. It is ready for mainstream they just need a company like MS with enough pull to do it.
            I’m really hoping he is just hiding the announcement until E3. Even though, the way Phil is phrasing it, I don’t think it will happen.
            If MS came out with WMR 2.0 and made it compatible for PC/XB. It would blow up.
            Even WMR sold a lot when released and the tech MS gave to companies was garbage. MS didn’t even bother to update it and just let it die.

            Sony announced that they sold 5mil PSVR headsets. Which is 10% of XB1 consoles sold at 50mil. That is a big number especially since PSVR came out halfway through the gen.

            I have a Pimax 5k+ headset which I personally think it’s the best headset along with Index. I’ve tried so many. The issue I have with VR is that all of the good devs are being bought by other ecosystems like oculus/psvr. Steam is just full of junk and I would love for MS to try another stab into VR but actually commit fully. I get that with the kinect(amazing tech) was a flop for the amount of R&D needed and other companies like Playstation and Oculus were able to capitalize on.
            They can’t dwell on the past because this is a different scenario. They tried to bring new devs to the kinect which was very limited for uses. There are so many VR devs right now, these games work on win10, MS has experience with WMR/hololens. It should be much easier this time around to pull devs in.

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          • Grey Lock

            Good points – I still think it was a huge missed opportunity that XBOX One X didn’t support WMR – it definitely has the specs too.

          • Sandeman21

            Uhm.. no. You are wrong, and VR is not yet able to blow people away. And I am a developer with 2 and a third VR title coming in the market soon and a few non commercial projects telling you that. It is not there yet, but in a few years. We need more powerful hardware for that. Your analysis and math is wrong too.

            VR for most developers is a loss game. Very few titles have broken over a million *revenue*. Which is unbelievable money for a kid, but for a small studio is bad. Most of us do it mainly because we love VR and we love being pioneers in the cutting edge of technology, exploring a new medium. Very few make money, and even VR headset makers are barely breaking even after taxes etc. They probably make more from the cut they take from us. But we see a strong future, we believe there is one, and we want to be part of making it happen.

      • Sandeman21

        And rightly so. The connectivity is there though, and if necessary all they need is a software update.

    • Sandeman21

      I suppose they do not want to give their competitors more free advice? :D

      • wow

        Nah they are a lot like Google and like to throw out half baked apps/hardware then pull+replace it with a new one instead of just updating their current one.

  • Immersive Computing

    My WMR experience was owning a Lenovo Explorer WMR.

    Headset tracking was excellent in a lit room, controller tracking not so good, really not great for bow or gun games.

    Controllers were physically uncomfortable, chewed through batteries very quickly and had weak haptics that barely registered in Beat Saber, and would turn off as battery power dropped.

    Screen wasn’t great quality despite the resolution bump over Rift and Vive it looked washed out with muddy colours, milky grey blacks and noticeable screen door effect.

    Microsoft and partners were *nearly* there, it just needed extra cameras for controller tracking and better controller ergonomics. A better screen was possible as the Samsung Odyssey showed, and its mechanical IPD adjustment was welcome, as the Lenovo gave me mild eyestrain.

    The battery power issue was a result of using visible light for tracking, perhaps not easy to resolve without moving to IR?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a48345876b09a7c89233e3dec3a096c48ea3e2c60bb4557d2aa27f46d60927d5.jpg

  • Kaput

    Thats good news
    And I hope hololens also should become lighter & similar to sunglasses
    My choice’d be hololens but since its costly I am ready to tolerate a heavier mixed reality headset, earlier version I bought for ~ 300 $ & I hope newer one’d be similarly priced.
    And if its independent like quest then it would be great (that’d be the only reason to buy).

  • Adderstone VR

    That Steam headset Marketplace graph seems very strange for it has Vive Cosmos showing numbers since June 2019, increasing till July 2019, and practically no increase since then.
    very weird since the headsets only started shipping in Sept 2019, so all the headsets from Jun-Aug had to be review samples, how is there zero spike Cosmos in numbers at Sept 2019?

    • Baldrickk

      This is RtoVR’s own graph from the data, it seems that they have a minimum line width.
      Check the original graph at
      store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey
      It shows the Cosmos emerging at the right time.
      It currently has a 0.6% market share.

    • JACrazy

      The steam hardware surveys cant really be trusted, and can possibly be completely inaccurate in terms of giving market share. In order for it to know you use vr and use a specific HMD, the headset has to be plugged in and running when performing the survey. The problem with this is that many unplug their headsets when not in use because they run constantly and the excessive heat coming off it when idle is a good indicator of the wasted energy.

  • grindathotte .

    I originally had an Acer WMR headset, then upgraded to Samsung Odyssey+ a few months ago when they were $229; that translated to around £242 after import duties to UK, still fantastic value. To that, I added the VR cover and velcro mod to eliminate light leakage. I mostly use it for flilght simming without VR controllers, but have fiddled with a few other games and not had any serious issues with tracking that I could not get around. For dark scenes it is unbeatable; somethinkg like the Abyss scene in theBlu is absolutely incredible and a totally different experience to every other headset I have tried. I do hope MS don’t abandon this like they did with Windows Mobile, which had become an excellent platform, just too late to the party.

    • Andres Zuccarino

      I think like you, if Microsoft adandon WMR like Windows mobile, Will miss much of the future.

  • mfx

    They got a bs VP of sales saying exactly what some wanted to hear to stop freak out while they do nothing in reality.
    With the billions they have, not investing in VR rnd is a stupid risk. But they already shown how talented they were with the smartphones business, so not a surprise here from them.

  • Kyokushin

    In fact MS (and HP) have the best headset on the market – the Reverb.
    If you try once a true 2160p resolution then image from any other avaiable headset on the market will look like a coloured stain.

    Microsoft want to loose the VR war on their own wish, as they lost smartphone war or tablet war.

    Good headsets (all WMR), good tracking, good image quality (HP Reverb is amazing), nice to use, but terrible marketing.

  • sfmike

    Maybe WE have given up on them. I gave up on Microsoft years ago. It’s all about quarterly profits and not innovation at MS.

  • Nothing to see here

    The lack of VR/Mixed Reality support in the XBox Pro and now the XBox One X speaks a lot louder than Microsoft’s PR department.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    I think Pimax should be on that graph and wmr is one of my favorites.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Mixed reality portal is the coolest and sleekest compared to steamvr home and oculus.

  • Xron

    Lets see next gen Vr that can use Xbox X series power.

  • Sandeman21

    If “nothing” is showing everyone else how to make a proper headset sure, let them continue doing that… “nothing” :P

    • Darshan

      Who got inspired from Microsoft VR and made extraordinary VR HMD please share info. Nothing was referred to hardware and tracking improvement which is where it was since day1.

  • Sandeman21

    HP Reverb is amazing, and the Samsung Odyssey+ is too. But all other headsets and of course, the controllers, are decisively last gen.

    I am not convinced they are actively doing something to improve the platform other than software maintenance, and that mainly on the SteamVR side of things. Even on their launcher, they have linked to the SteamVR store.

    • Darshan

      They are just hibernating till next demand wave. Then will / might/ doesn’t matter enter again.

    • david vincent

      Yeah, Reverb and Odyssey+ are amazing… for simmers who don’t need hand-tracking.

  • aramaziakin

    The fact that the devs of Microsoft Flight Sim had to be reminded that VR exists and that one of their other big gaming series Forza has no VR support should tell you how much Microsoft cares about VR.

    • Darshan

      Their XBOX VP says no gamer demanded for VR…made me surprised. Can very well speak for VR awareness internally. Anyway market can explain to those who neglect facts.

      • aramaziakin

        No gamer demand for VR? Then why bother making the WMR framework to begin with? Microsoft just have no idea what they are doing.

    • Keith X

      VR is one of the top 5 items on the wish list of the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 development roadmap.

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Don’t get your hopes up folks. Micro$oft cares about profits, and only profits. VR is a waste of their time in that respect. Meanwhile, Sony invests into VR regardless of little profits. I know where my money is gonna go.

    • Sion12

      MS missed out on mobile phone, i don’t think they want to miss out on VR. especially seeing how they pushing PC gaming. but then i also wont be surprise if WMR is dead. 50/50 here

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  • Grey Lock

    “But has Microsoft simply given up on Windows VR? You might think so, given the silence over the last year, the apparent discontinuation of all of the original WMR headsets.”

    Yeah, that’s where I’m at. While I love that MS spare headed Inside Out, as well as the great (clearance?) sales on hardware that got my friends into VR (and I even bought two to use with my grandkids,) the lack of any news since 2017 has been a downer, especially coupled with the fact that they pulled VR support from the XBOX One X.

    Now WMR is a distant memory as Oculus, Valve, and HTC all have new products.

    Such a shame when the Odyssey+ and Reverb are such good products.

  • Basically they have not answered.