Microsoft Says 'Mixed Reality' Is the Future, Not VR and AR: Page 2 of 3

It's not VR or AR. Microsoft wants immersive headsets to be as common as a keyboard and mouse and the company is betting on a new concept, Mixed Reality (MR), to get there.

to call it, will be providing an untethered experience – headsets that offer inside-out tracking and are able to follow the wearer's movements without the need for wires and external sensors.

“We wanted to build on the learning that we achieved with HoloLens,” Sullivan said. “One of the hardest things to make these [HMDs] compelling is to do positional tracking of the headset itself with six-degrees of freedom (6DoF). We've taken the inside-out tracking we built for HoloLens and brought it to these affordable headsets our partners are making.”

Sullivan said Microsoft is aiming to create an ecosystem with its partners that is open, but has a degree of structure – allowing OEMs to iterate and innovate their own products will still maintaining a standard of performance. “ That notion of an open but structured ecosystem is one we're familiar with,” he said. “All of the HMDS from our hardware manufacturer partners will devliver HMDs that contain inside-out, 6DoF tracking. It is a requirement of our platform to have that because the quality of experience is contingent on it. If you have a headset that does not deliver [6DoF] we know over time people will be uncomfortable with the experience.”

With its upcoming Creator's Update for Windows 10, scheduled for the fall of 2017, Microsoft, is implementing MR support into Windows 10 for developers. A big part of this update is that it will allow MR applications to run on PCs with integrated graphics, meaning users won't need to spring for the latest, high-end GPU in order to run a MR headset. “You'll be able to connect them to a mainstream PC that costs closer to $500,” Sullivan said.

The operating system is also key to Microsoft addressing the next major obstacle -- complexity. “The number one reason that existing devices get returned is complexity of setup,” Sullivan said, adding that the Creator's Update allows MR headsets to run with plug-and-play functionality -- again, just like a keyboard, mouse, or other standard peripheral.

But even if you can solve the cost and complexity issues, the greatest challenge is still to convince enterprise customers that adding MR to their workflow is a worthwhile investment. Sullivan said companies using HoloLens are already seeing a dramatic return on investment and Microsoft believes the same thing will carry over for MR. He cited German industrial company ThyssenKrupp AG, which is using HoloLens to assist elevator repair technicians. “ThyssenKrupp elevator uses HoloLens to dramatically scale the expertise of its repair technicians and experts to a field of other technicians. And they could do that right outside of the box just by using the Skype client.” He also talked about the value proposition HoloLens has brought to other maintenance and repair tasks as well as training. “If you're teaching a mechanic to work on a jet engine, for example, it's much more efficient to teach them on a holographic engine than to remove a physical one from a jet and fly everyone to a specific location to for hands-on learning.”


ThyssenKrupp elevator uses Microsoft HoloLens to assist repair technicians.


Had the opportunity to try out the HTC VIVE recently. My first experience with VR. Must say, the experience was impressive, and in some cases even a bit disconcerting. After hitting walls and a ceiling fan with the controller a couple times the idea of mixing in the real, physical environment with the virtual seems like a great idea.

This will only work when we no longer have to strap a brick in front of our faces....and the entire gear becomes much much more affordable. Right now it is nothing else than an expensive inconvenience with not much application.

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