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If you haven’t heard about it yet, Microsoft is prepping its own mixed-reality headset for launch. Today, Microsoft confirmed that the headset will be available in 2018.
Unlike the HoloLens, which is an augmented reality (AR) headset, and the Oculus Rift, which is a virtual reality (VR) headset, a mixed reality (MR) headset is literally a mix of both worlds.
An AR headset will let you see the world as you normally see it, but it adds, or augments, what you see with overlays, which are usually context-sensitive. A VR headset draws you out of your world by commandeering your sense of vision and hearing. An MR headset mixes both realities by enhancing what you see and also drawing you out of your world.
For example, an MR headset might take the boundaries of your room and put you in a castle with a room of the same size. A person who walks into your field of view will be replaced by an avatar, etc. This is not possible in either a VR or an AR headset.
Microsoft has achieved this by essentially giving you a VR headset with a mounted, front-facing camera. The camera also gives inside-out tracking abilities to the MR headset. With inside-out tracking, you don’t need external sensors to track your position in 3D.
If you’re one among a select group of developers, then you already have access to the Acer-built Microsoft MR development kit. PCWorld’s Blair Hanley Frank managed to get some hands-on time with the prototype MR headset and states that the Acer dev-kit is functionally very similar to the current prototype.
He mentions that the device is lighter than either the Rift or the Vive and that it doesn’t have headphones or speakers. Once he donned the headset, he was given an Xbox controller to control his experience. While he liked the video quality, his one complaint was that there was motion blur owing to the 60 fps limit on the screens. The Rift and the Vive hit 90 fps to mitigate this.
The Acer-built developer kit has two LCD screens at a resolution of 1440×1440 pixels and a 90Hz refresh rate. It also offers a combo 3.5mm audio jack for mic input and headphone output. A single HDMI 2.0 cable and USB 3.0 cable are sufficient, reports The Next Web.
The headset is expected to be priced at around $300 (around Rs 20,000), which makes it cheaper than every other serious VR headset out there, including the PlayStation VR. Since you don’t need dedicated tracking hardware, the deal is even sweeter.
The MR headset will be compatible with Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox One lineup.