Microsoft helps hardware companies make VR more affordable

Everybody wants to rule the VR world, and Microsoft is no exception. Sony, Oculus, and HTC all have headsets on the market promising the full VR experience, while Samsung and Google have mobile-focused headsets. Today at its Windows event, Microsoft unveiled its entry into the VR fray. The company is looking to bring affordable VR headsets to the market by way of partnerships with companies like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, and Asus. Prices will start at $299, a far cry from the $500-and-up tags on other VR headsets.

As points of comparison, Sony's console-based PlayStation VR requires a $499 investment, while the Oculus Rift rings up at $599 for the headset alone. The low price tag comes by way of what Microsoft calls "inside-out six-degrees-of-freedom sensors," which it says make external cameras and sensors unnecessary.

Microsoft's offering looks more like Sony's Playstation VR than its PC-powered counterparts, using a headband-style rig to fit to the user instead of over-the-head straps. The headset was announced in conjunction with the Windows 10 Creators Update, which will integrate VR functionality in some areas of the operating system.

There's no word yet on when these headsets will hit the market or how they might interact with games or consoles, but this news should provide some impetus for Oculus and HTC to work on making their devices both easier on the wallet and more consumer-friendly.

Comments closed
    • DPete27
    • 3 years ago

    Microsoft is making very nice hardware lately, but I don’t see the deletion of external cameras shaving 50% off the price of an Rift/Vive. Something else is being sacrificed, and I’m willing to bet it’s screen related.

    When all the other premium HMDs have external cameras for motion accuracy, I have a hard time believing internal sensors are going to match that. If there’s been some sort of technological breakthough since the launch of the Rift/Vive, surely the market wouldn’t keep that under wraps.

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    Hmm, I wonder how well this would work. What differentiates big boy VR from Cardboard was indeed the fixed point tracking, without which the guess work of other sensors led to drift.

    As this is larger and more expensive maybe it would have better sensors than a phone, but I wonder if it’ll still be the VR-lite experience.

      • Anovoca
      • 3 years ago

      Drift would be marginally acceptable so long as they made resetting center focus easier. The problem I have with gearvr and cardboard related drift is the need to reset focus through the software which requires pausing the active app. A simple reset button on the outside of the unit could alleviate a lot of headaches both figuratively and literally.

    • Anovoca
    • 3 years ago

    $200 saved by using different sensors? I was under the impression the internal screens where part of the biggest expense. Hopefully this is really all they scaled back.

    I suppose though that the gap between Oculus and GearVr is pretty wide and anything that falls in between for $300 is a pretty tempting price point. Even if the screen and motion detection are on par with gearVR, I would happily pay the extra just to not have to worry about storage space, overheating, and battery. Not to mention app content.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    Have a Vive: Yes.
    Have a Rift: Yes
    Have a GearVR with an S7 Edge: Yes.
    Have Google cardboard: Yes.

    Do you know why the Vive and Rift work sooooooo much better than the phone-based options without cameras and fixed sensors?

    [b<]Accuracy and low latency.[/b<] If Microsoft can get that level of accuracy and response time for three hundred bucks, good on them. However, there's a real reason why HTC and Oculus are still using fixed external sensors, and that's because it's currently the only way to get accuracy and low latency. I will pessimistically watch this space with the potential to be pleasantly surprised by Microsoft.

    • Klimax
    • 3 years ago

    Reminds me of older HMD devices.

    • NTMBK
    • 3 years ago

    If they support the existing SteamVR API, I’m interested. Otherwise GTFO.

    • Joerdgs
    • 3 years ago

    We’ll first have to see what they’re actually capable of. Could result in the first decent mid-range VR offerings though.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 3 years ago

    The idea that just because this device is cheap will lead to some price war amongst VR manufacturers is misleading. If this device is far weaker in technical specifications then there is no need to lower the price of premium devices like the Vive. If the device cost 299$ but has low resolution displays, causes motion sickness, or doesn’t relate head motion quickly, or can’t be used for gaming, it’s simply another type of HMD like old school movie viewers and not exactly a VR replacement.

      • synthtel2
      • 3 years ago

      Using only a 6DoF rig and no external sensing seems like sufficient reason for skepticism. 6DoF can be plenty quick, but I doubt they can get all the accuracy they’d like out of it.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 3 years ago

    And at Oculus HQ, Palmer Luckey is struggling to fight off the men and women holding him onto his balcony.


    “Sir, please come back inside. It’s not all bad,” said Rob.

    “It’s not?”

    “OH NO! Hey, AT&T’s buying Warner Brothers,” added Bob.

    “WHAT? WHAT?” squealed Luckey.

    “Oh sweet baby Trump hands, what have you done?”

    Ten minutes later…

    “…and that’s when he jumped, officer. We tried to talk him down. Earl had him by the waist, but somehow he shimmied away and took Earl down with him.”

    “And you’re saying he jumped because he spent a lot of money on web smearing and it didn’t work?”

    “No, officer. I’m saying he did that, but mostly it was Microsoft making a VR offering at half the price of his promised VR revolution that did it.”

    “So… do you think it’s deliberate then?”

    “What’s deliberate?”

    “Inciting the victim to throw himself out the window.”

    “Uhhhh,” Rob said rubbing his chin. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess. I mean, what else did they think would happen? The man made a lot of promises about getting a $300 VR unit out there, made and sold a prototype for that amount, and then when push came to shove, he fleeced everyone for twice the price and then tossed on about that amount for the almost-required controllers.”

    “I’m confused.”

    Bob shrugged. “We were all confused. He was a confusing man made of contradiction and hyperbole.”

      • bittermann
      • 3 years ago

      tldr; Don’t try so hard next time.

        • uni-mitation
        • 3 years ago

        Dear bittermann:

        Quite easy to be an armchair critic. Let me see you get a stab at it!


      • ImSpartacus
      • 3 years ago

      Dear HisDivineOrder,

      What the duck am I reading?


      • short_fuze
      • 3 years ago

      Oculus Shrugged. Who Is Bob…

      • Voldenuit
      • 3 years ago

      Great read. Although the premise that [i<]anyone[/i<] would try to stop Palmer from jumping seems a bit of a stretch.

      • DrCR
      • 3 years ago

      Your fan fiction posts are your best posts.

    • Voldenuit
    • 3 years ago

    I know, right?

    I was so excited when I saw this slide.

    [url<][/url<] Also tellingly, Oculus was not mentioned once in MS' VR ramblings.

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