You can now say “Flashlight On” to see the real world while wearing a Windows VR headset.
Headsets running Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform, like those from companies such as Acer, Lenovo and Samsung, can access the new feature with the latest Windows 10 Insider build. You’ll need to connect a microphone if your headset lacks one to test the voice command feature, but the “Mixed Reality Flashlight” can also be activated other ways. I’ve had some very bad experiences in recent months running early Windows builds so I am not rushing to install the latest version and test this. The feature projects a passthrough view from the camera on the headset to wherever you point the controller. From the Microsoft blog post linked earlier:
You can open a portal into your real world at any time via the Start menu, a button shortcut, or a voice command. This opens a low-latency pass-through camera feed connected to your controller. It’s comfortable, intuitive, and keeps you immersed.
The new Windows-based system lets people interact with two realities at once. I’d also be curious to see what the mesh looks like that Microsoft captures of my environment, and I’m hopeful the company’s engineers might be able to use object recognition to start pulling objects from your real environment into the virtual one. It might be nice to see a special glowing couch and, when you go sit down on it, you are actually sitting down on a piece of real world furniture. There’s nothing like that with this feature update, but it is one direction tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook and Google might go in order to make VR headsets easier and safer to use over the next few years. This “Mixed Reality Flashlight” looks like a good first step for Microsoft.