Microsoft declared today that the era of Windows Mixed Reality has begun as it kicked off an event in San Francisco with several announcements, including the acquisition of AltspaceVR, a new Samsung Windows mixed reality headset, and a SteamVR preview.
Microsoft refers to mixed reality as the headsets that can produce virtual reality (the feeling you are immersed in a virtual world) or augmented reality (which layers digital animations on the real world). The mixed reality headsets require the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which is set to arrive on October 17.
As part of the strategy, Microsoft has acquired the team at AltspaceVR, the social VR application startup that ran out of money earlier this year. AltspaceVR had consumers in 160 countries, with all sorts of VR meetups, comedy shows, yoga classes, dance parties, and large-scale events hosted by NBC, Reggie Watts, Justin Roiland, and Drew Carey. Microsoft didn’t describe the terms of the acquisition.
And Microsoft also said that the SteamVR library of VR videos, apps, and games will work on Windows Mixed Reality devices. Developers will be able to preview their SteamVR apps on Windows mixed reality now, and consumers will be able to check them out during the holiday season. Microsoft has created Share Halo: Recruit, a mixed reality experience for the new Windows mixed reality headsets. It will be available in the Windows Store as a free download on October 17.
Microsoft created the spec for Windows VR headsets, which are coming from partners Dell, Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. Those companies are now taking preorders for their headsets. Microsoft is also selling a beta version of its self-contained holographic computer, HoloLens, which can handle AR applications. That kit has been available since January 2015.
Microsoft’s Alex Kipman, creator of HoloLens and a technical fellow, wrote in a blog post that Microsoft has built a community of mixed reality developers, commercial partners, and consumers.
Kipman said, “We are standing at the threshold of the next revolution in computing. A revolution where computers empower us to expand our capabilities and transcend time, space and devices. A revolution where we immerse ourselves in virtual worlds of our choosing and we accomplish seemingly impossible things, while making lasting memories with the people we love.”
Microsoft will embrace the entire spectrum of devices, from AR to VR and “everywhere in between,” Kipman said. Microsoft will have a unified platform for applications and services, so that an app created for Windows mixed reality devices will run on all devices.