Microsoft announced a partnership earlier this fall with companies like Asus, Lenovo, and HP to bring cheaper virtual reality headsets to the market, along with a plan to integrate VR experiences into Windows 10 via the upcoming Creators Update. Now, some information spotted by The Verge suggests the company is making sure that these less-expensive headsets can work fine with computers that the average user can buy.
Windows 10's Insider Preview Build 14971 includes an app called Windows Holographic First Run. The app includes a compatibility test intended to verify whether your rig can handle VR and holographic output. The test reveals a pretty basic set of requirements for Microsoft's foray into headset-based gaming:
- 4GB of RAM.
- One USB 3.0 port.
- A DirectX 12-compatible graphics card.
- A quad-core CPU (or a dual-core processor with Hyper-threading).
Let's compare that to the minimum requirements of the next step up, the $599 Oculus Rift, after the headset software's 1.10 update with asynchronous spacewarp support:
- 8GB of RAM.
- Two USB 3.0 ports.
- One HDMI 1.3 port.
- Any GeForce GTX 9-series card, or any card from AMD's RX series.
- An Intel Core i3-6100 or AMD FX-4350 CPU.
The biggest hurdle facing virtual reality as it makes the jump from niche to mainstream is accessibility. The difference in specs has been lessened somewhat since Oculus' introduction of asynchronous spacewarp, but is still stark enough. Even with the PlayStation 4's simpler VR solution, you're looking at an $800 minimum to get rolling. The price only jumps upward from there. It's harder to offer up a single price point, but Microsoft's specs suggest that just about any computer with a DirectX 12-compatible card can run what it intends to offer. It's also worth noting that these specifications only produce a barebones experience—full-fledged PC VR still requires a Core i5 CPU and a GTX 970 graphics card.
It's tough to say what kind of experiences Microsoft can offer with these lower-end specs and cheaper hardware. However, with a $299 headset and these low system requirements, Microsoft may open up virtual reality as a realistic option for countless users in homes and businesses both.