Microsoft Launches Its Windows VR Platform

by Jamie Feltham • October 17th, 2017

Today sees the consumer launch of the third major PC VR platform; Windows VR.

Last year Facebook released its Oculus Rift headset with a dedicated platform while HTC and Valve introduced the Vive, powered by SteamVR as an extension of the existing Steam service. As part of today’s free Fall Creators Update for Windows 10, Microsoft is launching its own platform — officially dubbed “Windows Mixed Reality” — that supports multiple headsets made by some of the most recognized electronics manufacturers in the world.

Today, headsets from Acer, Lenovo, Dell and HP are all launching at prices between $399 and $449, and come complete with a new pair of motion controllers. These devices are largely similar in terms of specs (see our comparison chart) but, in early November, Samsung will also launch a premium Windows VR headset for $499 and Asus will release its own device in 2018 for an unannounced price. Whereas Oculus and Valve headsets utilize external sensors that must be placed around a room to provide six degrees of freedom (6DOF) tracking, these devices instead have sensors fitted to the headsets themselves. This is known as inside-out tracking, and it’s a big thing for VR.

This means users will be able to move through a virtual space without having to clutter their room with external sensors, and the 6DOF motion controllers are also tracked with these sensors. This is one of the first consumer-ready takes on inside-out tracking we’ve seen; Valve is doubling down on its Lighthouse tracking with improved base stations releasing in the coming months, and we won’t see Oculus’ take on the system until the launch of Santa Cruz, its prototype standalone headset that’s shipping to developers next year.

On day one, Windows VR customers will have access to their own virtual home, which serves as a hub world in which you can pin traditional apps like internet browsers and video playback software to walls as 2D screens that can be as big or as small as you choose. You’ll also be able to access the Windows Store and download native VR apps like Halo: Recruit, offering just a small taste of Microsoft’s famed gaming franchise in VR for the first time.

Later in the year, though, Microsoft and Valve will also release a preview of SteamVR support for Windows VR, meaning anyone with a headset will be able to access the hundreds of VR apps already on Steam and grow their library exponentially.

Crucially, Microsoft is allowing these devices to run on lower-spec systems than was required for the Rift and Vive. You can use a toolkit to check your system is up to scratch, but lower-spec systems will run headsets with a 60Hz refresh rate while better rigs will run them at 90Hz, the minimum framerate set for both Oculus and Vive apps.

We have plenty of questions about the arrival and future of Windows VR that largely remain unanswered. At cheaper prices, will these be enough to disrupt the $399 Rift and $599 Vive? Will the inside-out tracking solution prove as dependable as established outside-in systems? What major apps are coming, and what does this mean for possible VR support on Microsoft’s incoming Xbox One X console?

We’ll look to answer these questions and more in the coming days and weeks.

What's your reaction?
  • impurekind

    Well, there’s definitely a lot of big name companies in on VR right now, which is surely only a good thing in terms of the viability of it as a brand new entertainment platform.

  • marklola12 .

    They could have really done with cameras at the side of the headset too as ive seen reviews where tracking has been lost on hands which ruins some games

    • AmiRami

      This is true but also remember that they are trying to keep the entrance price point for these devices as low as possible so that the platform can grow beyond VR enthusiasts.

  • Can you guys do an actual comparison of the Windows MR side by side with the Rift or Vive. It’s ridiculous that no one has done a decent comparison now that they are released and the Pimax8k an unreleased headset already has tons of reviews and articles comparing it to the Vive and Rift.

    • koenshaku

      Quality is dropping you can probably find this from some random youtuber right now.

    • Jean-Sebastien Perron

      There is no comparison possible with Vive and Oculus. Maybe they can compare it with google cardboard.

      • Actually, reviews show that it compares just fine with the vive and the SDE is noticeably lower.

  • koenshaku

    I think I will grab the Samsung when they support steam. It will be much better than taking my vive to a friend or families place.

  • AmiRami

    I’m getting the Samsung Odyssy headset so i still have to wait till mid November. Can’t wait though!!

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    All Microsoft’s Gender Fluid Reality and no games makes jack a dull boy. 400$ for a jump backward in VR : lower fov, cheap lcd screens instead of oled, random hand tracking and no tracking behind, no headphones on the headset, 2D halo game, no steam support (it will come eventually at the same time as XboneX VR -> Never). Ugly and uncomfortable and painful ergonomics. Another waste of times provided by Microsoft that really want you to hate VR just so they can hide the fact that XboneX is not powerful enough for VR.

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    Microsoft is the new Vive -> dead on arrival

  • D Polo

    Man! What a non-event Microsoft Windows VR has been. Looked for YouTube and written reviews on the headsets and couldn’t find much. Should this be attributed to no interest in VR by the general public or the VR product Microsoft put out? I’m a Vive, Rift and PSVR owner and was looking forward to more info about the MS headsets, but it seems no one seems to care??