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Windows Mixed Reality Could be a Big Deal for Professionals


Everyone in the professional computing business has heard of the Microsoft Hololens. Itís an amazing headset that brings lifelike augmented reality straight to your eyeballs with hi-tech projection. Itís for sale for a whopping $3000 and has a lot of things that need to be improved, but itís an exciting sign of things to come.

Obviously though, itís not something a mass of people are going to rush out to buy, which is why Microsoft has announced the mainstream offshoots of its ďmixed realityĒ technology.

The next big Windows 10 update this year is going to bring native support for Windows Mixed Reality. Itís a mix of technologies that Microsoft have developed to make life easier for developers who want to make VR, AR or MR applications.

This software announcement comes with a number of hardware products too, which is where it all really comes together.

The Goodies
There are two developer edition headsets that are available to, well, developers. One is made by HP and the other by Acer. Thereís also a consumer headset that will sell for $350 made by Lenovo.

The two developer headsets are going for less money than the consumer edition, but at the same time theyíre a bit more rough around the edges by some accounts.

Thatís OK because they are aimed at development and testing. These headsets are also the only ones that unlock developer mode in Windows 10.

A Familiar Face
All three headsets follow pretty much the same reference design. It uses a single headband which makes sharing and adjusting super easy. They all also have a flip-up mechanism which means you donít need to take the whole headset off if you quickly want to leave VR to talk to someone or do something.

Funnily enough, this makes these headsets pretty similar to the design of the Sony PSVR, so hopefully Microsoft isnít stepping on any patents!

The Numbers
Specification wise these Windows Mixed Reality headsets arenít too shabby at all. They pack two 1440x1440 LCD panels and have a field of view equal to about 95 degrees. Thatís less than the 110-degrees you get with an Oculus or Vive. Yet itís still comfortably the minimum you need for immersive VR.
The panels themselves are rated at 90 Hz, which is also in line with the competition

The real stars of the show are the two cameras on the front of the unit, which allow for AR pass-through. They hold the secret to the best trick of this hardware platform: inside-out tracking.

Where headsets like the Vive or Oculus need external cameras to track precise movement, the Windows units use the cameras to track the space around you. This is a revolutionary solution and makes this a practical and portable solution.

The Requirements
The VR requirements are about the same as those of the Oculus and Vive, which are still beefy but not quite so serious these days. If you want to use it for development then the specs bump up to at least a six or eight core CPU.

The most interesting thing about the requirements is that there is a low-end tier that will work with an Intel HD 620 iGPU or better. The screens clock down to 60 hz and you wonít be using high-end AAA VR apps, but the productivity stuff remains in reach. Which makes these headsets the best contenders for the mainstream yet.

Professional Purposes
We see these Windows HMDs as something that CAD and simulation engineers could really make great use of, not to mention developers who are making AR and VR apps for others.

Just the idea of using the technology to free yourself from desk-bound screens and have unlimited workspace makes it an attractive idea. Especially at a relatively cheap price!