Brandon Bray, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, took the stage at Unity’s Vision VR/AR Summit 2017 to show a little more of what Microsoft has planned for the VR side of things when the first Windows Holographic headsets come later this year. And to wit, Microsoft is giving away a free Acer Windows VR headset to everyone present at today’s Unity Vision VR/AR Summit.
After reporting to the crowd that currently 91 percent of the ‘holographic’ apps built for Windows headsets (including HoloLens) were constructed using the Unity game engine, Bray showed off an app that looks uncannily similar to something you might see in a HoloLens demonstration, but this time entirely virtual in nature and intended for the fleet of Windows-centric headsets coming later in 2017.
Called Cliff House, the virtual home is meant to act as a showcase for the Windows operating system as imagined in virtual reality. According to Bray, it allows you to place and arrange your apps around the space where you can create a number of customized areas like a gaming basement, a productivity room or an entertainment hub on the balcony overlooking a mountainous landscape—essentially mirroring the HoloLens usecase of choosing which Windows apps you want to use and sticking them around your house.
“Mixed reality allows me to place a hologram in a room, and walk around it, interact with it, and engage with it as if it were really there. It also allows me to take objects, people and places from the real world and bring them into the digital world and create entirely new experiences,” said Bray speaking about the capabilities of the Microsoft HoloLens.
As we’ve seen it today, Cliff House is almost entirely copying the HoloLens usecase of app-centric spaces. Without the power of gesture recognition, it’ll be interesting to see if these apps hold the same level of usability when used within a VR headset, and if they can ultimately foster he sort of ‘productivity room’ Microsoft envisions.
According to a Windows Central hands-on with Cliff House, you move around the virtual home using the Xbox One controller. Windows Central reports that the VR-capable Windows 10 UI and shell are “very much like HoloLens but a little more polished.” Gaze-based interactions control the UI and locomotion is achieved via teleportation, the report says.
The Acer-built Windows Holographic headset is one of the first to arrive, with similar headsets coming from Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and 3Glasses later in 2017, and Microsoft wants to tap further into the Unity dev community by giving away a free Acer headset to all participants at Unity VR/AR Summit, arriving in the summer. Audience members will receive more detail on their free Acer headset sometime in June.
Windows Holographic VR headset users will reportedly gain access to more than 20,000 UWP (universal Windows platform) apps in the catalog, along with 3D objects from the web using Microsoft Edge to drag and drop into their physical world. Immersive WebVR content via Microsoft Edge and 360 degree videos will also be available in the Movies & TV app.
You can check out the full keynote on Unity’s YouTube channel here (link is time-stamped for Bray’s talk).