At WinHEC 2016 today, Microsoft unveiled its take on the augmented reality concept, called "Project Evo." Evo is a collaboration with Intel that entails a combination of both companies' hardware and software. Microsoft says that head-mounted-displays (HMDs) will make people expect more out of a Windows PC, and that Project Evo will fundamentally change the way people interact with computers. Those are big words, but inspiring demos (like dragging virtual furniture off the screen and placing it in your room) show a vision of the future that looks set to become reality sooner rather than later.
Project Evo will rely on new Windows features like far-field speech recognition for Cortana and more advanced biometrics for Windows Hello. On the hardware side, Microsoft released the minimum specifications for a PC that can power a Project Evo augmented-reality HMD, and they're more modest than the requirements for handling a fully-immersive VR experience. A Core i5-7200U and its integrated HD Graphics 620 IGP are all that's needed, along with at least 8GB of dual-channel memory, an HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.3 output, a USB 3.0 port, and "100GB+" of storage. It's worth noting that the minimum requirements specifically call for dual-channel memory, a feature lacking on many low-cost laptops using ultra-low-voltage CPUs.
According to Microsoft, gaming is a big part of Project Evo, and the company specifically mentions spatial audio and HDR video as two technologies central to the initiative. Developer kits for Project Evo hardware will be available at the Game Developer Conference in February. MS says HMDs from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo will be available next year, and that it expects hardware partners to have Evo-ready PCs by holiday 2017. If previous reports are anything to go by, Project Evo HMDs should go for around $299.