Augmented and virtual reality are clearly the next big thing in tech, a fact confirmed by Microsoft in an announcement regarding their October 2017 update to Windows 10. Now that the operating system runs on roughly 550 million devices, the update represents a huge potential spread of the technology. Alongside the announcement came news that the largely cloud services-oriented software giant will support several new pieces of hardware that integrate augmented and virtual reality features in some capacity.
Microsoft’s latest push is to support devices that integrate both augmented and virtual reality features, or what the industry refers to as “mixed reality.” According to their announcement, Microsoft is not just pursuing this in the commercial sector, but also plans to develop mixed reality features at the consumer level, specifically mentioning video games.
Set to release on October 17th, the Windows 10 update will allow users to “step inside” the operating system. Officially called the Fall Creators Update, it will work in conjunction with a specially designed headset which enables users to explore software in virtual environments. The headset is expected to retail at $299 initially and is a separate project from Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality goggles. In one example, users accessing Microsoft Word could work on their word processing project at a virtually rendered writing desk. The headsets themselves aren’t expected until the 2017 holiday season, but October’s update will provide the necessary software features for third party developers to begin exploring what sort of features the new hardware will allow.
Other updates include a new smart pen system which enables the tracking of the implement if it is lost, along with general security updates. Now that the software is officially on the table, it should not be long before Microsoft’s various partners reveal new computers designed around mixed reality.
The new tech certainly has massive implications for gaming, but it’s so far unclear how or if Microsoft will integrate its latest software with the Xbox One, the company’s current-gen home gaming console. That said, PC gamers are likely to benefit from Microsoft’s mixed reality, especially once third party designers get their hands on the software company’s latest tech. Furthermore, the fact that Microsoft is dedicating so much time and resources towards virtual reality should finally present some suitable competition for Oculus Rift which, while primarily associated with gaming, does have its own commercial applications. Technically speaking, Microsoft’s main competitor for the Oculus is their HoloLens project, but their mixed reality headset offers an equally interesting experience at a smaller price point.