Microsoft is in the home stretch of getting Windows Mixed Reality ready for mass consumption, officially jumping into the VR world alongside heavyweights like Vive, Oculus and PlayStation. To really jump in though, it needs some games.
Today it announced that it's partnering up with Valve to allow Steam content to run on those Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which are coming from the likes of Acer, Dell and Lenovo. It's a significant announcement, and gives Windows Mixed Reality a solid bedrock of content for early adopters to latch onto.
But that's not all: 343 Industries, which currently makes the mainline Halo games for Xbox, is developing future Halo experiences for Windows Mixed Reality. That could give WMR some nice, juicy killer apps. Though we don't yet know how far along that is, or when we could expect the first experience, or if they're full games or not.
Read this: The race to mixed reality
At a recent Microsoft event, I was able to put an Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset on my head, the Windows Mixed Reality touch controllers in my hands, and give a couple games a spin (no Halo, unfortunately). I was put through a gauntlet of some of the most well-known and respected VR games available - stuff like Rec Room, Arizona Sunshine, Superhot VR and Space Pirate Trainer.
While there were some small hardware issues that were still being worked out, the software all pretty much worked smoothly. If you know these games on Vive or Rift, you know these games on Windows Mixed Reality. I was able to seamlessly pull off cool takedowns in Superhot, blast zombies in Arizona Sunshine and paint some ball in Rec Room.
As for what you'll run these experiences on, Microsoft has confirmed that there'll be two different levels of Windows Mixed Reality. This is determined by whether you have a Windows Mixed Reality PC or a Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PC. Microsoft isn't being too forthcoming on exact specs right now, but it basically boils down to whether you have integrated graphics or not.
If you've got a desktop or laptop with integrated graphics, you've got a Windows Mixed Reality PC that'll run experiences at 60 frames per second. If you've got a desktop or laptop with "discrete" graphics, you've got a Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PC that'll run experiences at 90 frames per second. The experiences I tried were running on a Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PC, but I did get some time with a regular WMR PC at 60 frames per second.
In this case, I got to try out HoloTour and Minecraft with an Xbox One controller. Minecraft looked and behaved well for the most part - I did feel a little off while walking around, but Microsoft assured me it's mostly because the team at Mojang hasn't quite figured out movement yet. I was simple using the joystick to move around like in a regular game, rather than teleporting around like a lot of other VR games.
Microsoft's main goal with its Windows Mixed Reality push is to make alternative reality experiences as easy and simple to get into as possible. That means avoiding plotting sensors all over your house - which WMR accomplishes by putting all of that into the headset itself - offering killer content like Halo, Minecraft, and SteamVR, and a range of different hardware experiences from the likes of Dell, HP, and Acer, and scale.
Scale means a couple things. It means making it easy for people with integrated graphics to get in on some mixed reality, it means using Microsoft's massive chain of retail locations to get people to try mixed reality, and it means making it affordable enough for people, universities and businesses to buy them. Bundles will start at $399, which is a good start.
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