Windows Will Support Headsets With Varying Input, FOV, Resolution and Frame Rate

by Ian Hamilton • December 7th, 2016

Microsoft is looking to unify manufacturers around using Windows to power mixed reality headsets, with a plan to support HMDs featuring a wide range of specifications.

Next year, Microsoft plans to support headsets from manufacturers like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo starting at just $300, and by the end of the year the tech giant plans for “the base minimum hardware requirements for holiday 2017 systems” to start with an “Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 620 (GT2) equivalent or greater DX12 API Capable GPU.”

Both these marks should dramatically lower the cost to bring a VR headset into your home that still offers full freedom of movement in any direction. The Rift starts at $600 while the roomscale Vive starts at $800, each of which require a PC with relatively expensive graphics cards to work right.

Microsoft at its Windows Hardware Engineering Community event (WinHEC) in Shenzhen, China, also announced a partnership with Chinese VR headset maker 3Glasses. The company plans to offer a headset in the first half of 2017 compatible with Windows 10 at the higher end of a range of specifications Microsoft will support. The specifications for the 3Glasses’ S1 headset are listed at 2880×1440 with a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. The Rift and Vive operate at 2160 x 1200 and 90 Hz.

“We want a wide range of price points, wide range of specs, wide range of input, single developer platform, single developer surface area so the experiences work across the entire set,” said Alex Kipman, technical fellow of new device categories at Microsoft, in an interview with UploadVR. “You must at least be able to track in 6 degrees of freedom. That means to me 6 DoF tracking is the minimum requirement. After that it’s all about giving opportunity for partners and choice for customers. That’s inclusive of FOV, refresh rate, resolution and we abstract all that to developers. That is true from an input perspective from 3 DoF to 6 DoF to everywhere between.”

According to Kipman, Microsoft is looking to do with its operating system what Oculus and Steam might not be able to from their place as applications.

“This is the power and benefit of being an operating system. If you’re just an application, and at the end of the day that’s all Oculus or Valve or those things are, you’re an application running in the context of an operating system, you can’t reconcile the input stack,” Kipman said. “On the other hand, if you’re the people as an operating system, that intercept all of those calls, you can come up (and we have) with a homogenized API surface area that to a developer is just more events driven. You just understand the action that was taken, you don’t necessarily understand where it came from.”

The idea is that Microsoft will provide “a consistent interface with a single store for customers,” according to a blog post by Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft. Meanwhile, developers will target a single input stack that would allow their apps to support a wide range of methods Microsoft intends to support for interacting with mixed reality, including controllers that can only move in a few directions, controllers that can move in any direction, gamepads like the Xbox controller, keyboard, mouse and eventually “gaze, gesture and voice” input.

When asked whether the Rift and Vive would be able to access apps purchased from the Microsoft store, Kipman said “it’s up to them.”

“Bifurcating platforms and bifurcating experiences doesn’t help developers and it doesn’t help customers with choice,” Kipman said. “The invitation remains open for any headset that is capable of doing 6 DoF, inclusive of HTC and Oculus, but they have to take me up on my invitation.”

Microsoft said it plans to offer HMD developer kits at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next year. You can sign up to show your interest at http://aka.ms/IWantMR. Kipman declined to say whether the kits would be free or cost money.

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  • Kevin Walker

    Too many cooks…

    • polysix

      are needed right now until it all shakes out. Otherwise we get cuntish wannabe monopolies like facebook (nee Oculus) trying to call all the shots on when we get the latest tech and for how much.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    Awesome, Microsoft’s approach is VR is a smart move. Using their OS, there will be VR headsets that finally fit into everyone’s budget.

  • Nicholas

    Oh, what a surprise. I thought Microsoft said they’d be offering a “more immersive” experience than the Rift/Vive for $300. Now it’s a “wide range of price points”. And that doesn’t include controllers of course. And of course MS would overlook the main benefit of the VR platform being an application is that you can run it on multiple OS’s….

    • 12Danny123

      While you can standardize with Vulkan, you can’t unify the amount of stores, experiences that a developer and consumer has to go through. Microsoft is unifying the mixed reality ecosystem, providing inside-out tracking for HMDs, a single platform and standardized inputs for developers, and a consistent interface with a single store for customers. That’s a big advantage, and that doesn’t include how their OS is going to be running on a Chinese VR headset that already has 5 million users.

  • XbotMK1

    Everything Kipman said was total marketing bullshit trying to lure developers to Windows.

    Flooding and fracturing the market with multiple headsets with different specs and different limitations doesn’t help developers either dumbass.

    • polysix

      so what? just let fuckbook have all it’s own way? with it’s already woefully fucked rift CV1 with shoddy tracking and late to the party controls? MS will push oculus, HTC/Valve and others to do better, for lower prices, instead of letting a few arrogant companies control it all (and yes I’m aware MS itself is such a company but better than letting FACE-FUCKING-BOOK ruin VR for everyone – I mean wtf have facebook ever done for anyone but facebook’s interest?)

      • Buddydudeguy

        Shody tracking?? wot?lol FacebookFacebookFacebook rabble rabble rabble

  • user

    why would i want to buy a standalone headset with the same computing power that my handset/tablet already has?
    it’s a waste of money that microsoft hypes because sadly none of the handsets run their os.

  • James Friedman

    The headsets that hang on your head like the PSVR are the way to go. I just really hate the suction cup on my face. It’s way too hot and they fog up easily.

  • Buddydudeguy

    “The Rift starts at $600 while the roomscale Vive starts at $800” implying Rift can’t do it, and makes no mention of Touch. I despise articles like this.

  • 10TenK

    I like the fact there will be more competition in the market for VR but somthing he said rubed me the wrong way.

    “with a single store for customers”

    Noone really picked up on this one? Lol
    It sounds to me like Microsoft wants to be Facebook and steam all in one for vr.
    You want your vr apps come buy them from the Microsoft store ..

    Tell ya what, I will buy a VR when it’s possible to pick the hardware from whatever developer I choose .. and then get VR content from whichever digital distributer is best for me ..
    Kinda like , ya know how video games are now .. lol
    Do we all go to the Microsoft store to buy are games now? No so why should we for our VR content…
    And before some smart ass says .. “duhhhh no we all go to steam” no we don’t. I don’t always buy my games from steam .. so shut up.

    Wake up people, trading one evil for another isn’t progress

    • Erroll

      Microsoft has such a great track record with stores..