Microsoft Build 2017; a VR perspective

The recent Microsoft Build developer conference has, among other news, brought us a pair of announcements concerning VR. We will take a look at what Microsoft has planned in one of the currently hottest tech fields.

Mixed reality

Microsoft opened preorders for their new Windows Mixed Reality development kits. While the 'mixed reality' tag is mostly associated with Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality glasses, these new products are more in line with the regular VR headsets already in the market (eg. Oculus Rift). The kits will be produced by HP and Acer and will cost $329 and $299, respectively. Unlike some of the competing headsets, the development kits use internal tracking sensors, which removes the need for external cameras or markers. Aside from the already mentioned Microsoft partners 3Glasses, Dell, and Lenovo have also announced their headsets at this year's CES.

VR motion Controllers

Following the trend of increasing interaction capabilities in VR, Microsoft has announced a new set of motion controllers for its Windows Mixed Reality headsets. The controllers will be fully tracked by sensors in the headset, instead of by external cameras or markers. They are supposed to go on sale this holiday season, included in Acer's $399 headset bundle.

Windows Mixed Reality controllers look similar to those of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. There's a ring of LEDs at one end for tracking, then a panel with a round trackpad, an analog stick, and a menu button. On the body, there's a Windows button and a side grip trigger. Unlike the Vive, where the tracking rings are laid flat like cup holders, Microsoft's controllers have a vertically placed ring. It makes sense for something that's tracked by sensors on your face, instead of towers placed around a room. This is one of the first controller designs we've seen that's based on inside-out tracking. It's part of Microsoft's plan for virtual and augmented reality systems that can be set up anywhere, without the need for dedicated “VR rooms.”