Report: Microsoft details specs for upcoming VR headsets

It's no secret that Microsoft has ambitions to lower the barrier to entry for PC VR experiences through reduced PC hardware requirements and affordable tethered VR headsets. According to Tom's Hardware, the company has now released more concrete information regarding the specifications of these upcoming cheaper head-mounted displays, designated as "Mainstream HMD (Low End)," as well as a higher-end variant predictably named "High End." The main difference between the low-end sets and the more expensive units is the refresh rate, which has been reduced from 90 Hz to a potentially smearier 60 Hz.

The planned low-end headsets will reportedly have the same resolution as the Rift and Vive, at 1200×1080 pixels per eye, though they will rely on LCD displays instead of AMOLED screens. Meanwhile, Microsoft's high-end HMD tier will sport OLED screens at an industry-leading 1440×1440 pixels per eye. Other differences lie in included controls and integration of audio devices, as well as the cabling requirements. Tom's Hardware has a nicely composed table with the differences between HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the two tiers of upcoming hardware.

All headsets from Microsoft's partners will use the company's Inside-Out tracking system. This method does away with markers and cameras scattered throughout a room and replaces them with a single camera and inertial sensors inside the headset to provide positional data for room-scale VR experiences. This "six degrees-of-freedom" functionality isn't usually supported in mobile VR platform and requires additional hardware from Oculus' Rift and HTC's Vive to work.

Microsoft expects low-end HMDs to start around $300, but has not released pricing information for the high-end units. Tom's Hardware expects Microsoft's hardware partners to show off HMDs at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

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    • Srsly_Bro
    • 3 years ago

    Where is grumpy butt SSK and his opinion on this?

    • Andrew Lauritzen
    • 3 years ago

    Guys… 60Hz is not “nausea-inducing”, it just has more motion blur. Obviously not ideal, but assuming it’s still low persistence it doesn’t have to be to the level of DK1 or anything. And it certainly doesn’t make people sick. You’re still far more likely to feel nauseated from mobile VR (lack of good positional tracking) and yet no one is freaking out about that.

    We’re past the point where the big folks in the industry understand what it takes to get to “acceptable” VR that doesn’t make people sick, so we don’t really need those comments anymore outside of no-name China mobile stuff. Yes there will be a range of quality of course, but the axes they are differentiating on here seem reasonable.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 3 years ago

      Poor language choice on our part.

      • Rezlab
      • 3 years ago

      As a developer, I completely agree. 90Hz rate is over hyped and mainly useful for fast moving graphics. It is more important to ensure low latency from the IMU and Inside/Outside tracking. Also, with newer low latency (< 3ms) LCD screens, this is less a problem here as well. In fact I feel ensuring layered screen buffers, predictive motion and ensuring the SOC performs well enough to push 60-75 fps is the key to a good VR experience and less about the screen technology.

      It should also be noted that for many, Google Cardboard has been their first experience, and in my opinion ANYTHING will be better than that. Even so, Cardboard has done more to bring VR to the masses than Oculus or HTC Vive could ever hope for.

      Finally Inside/Out tracking at this price is the real killer feature here. And I can see belt clipped NUC size Windows PCs driving the headsets for mobility.

      • Voldenuit
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]Guys... 60Hz is not "nausea-inducing", it just has more motion blur. [/quote<] 60 Hz means that any framerate drops will drop the framerate to 30 fps or 20 fps. [i<]That[/i<] will be nausea-inducing, unless the display has variable frame refresh (doubtful) or clever asynchronous spacewarping (band-aid solution). I'm surprised they didn't go the 120 Hz route that sony did, even if the actual frame input to the headset was still only 60 fps.

        • Noinoi
        • 3 years ago

        I’m thinking that it probably will at least try to reproject and/or spacewarp – given that the Gear VR is plenty comfortable to me even with lots of head-turning myself for extended periods of time despite it being 60 Hz (admittedly AMOLED and low-persistence), even with a game that had trouble keeping even 30 FPS (funnily enough it didn’t make me feel nauseous for some reason, though I think I won’t be playing the game that I won’t be naming here in the future) it might not be as bad as it seems.

        Though if the LCD panels were not low-persistence… uh oh.

        • Andrew Lauritzen
        • 3 years ago

        That’s actually not how it works in the presence of a VR compositor. Allowing any frame drops of that nature would indeed be pretty bad, so the VR compositors never drop frames and use stuff like ATW/ASW to fill in cases where an application is misbehaved. If there’s any significant number of dropped frames from an application in a given window, they will simply be terminated and you’ll get kicked back to the hub.

        So while I agree there’s a very significant benefit to higher refresh displays on conventional monitors, the tradeoffs are actually quite a bit different for VR given how the technology is implemented.

      • Laykun
      • 3 years ago

      It’s full persistence, so good luck with that.

    • mcnabney
    • 3 years ago

    MS is completely retarded sticking low refresh in the cheap version. The GPU expense is what drives up the cost of a higher refresh – choosing a panel with a 90hz refresh isn’t going to add much to the build cost.
    That said, higher resolutions, deeper color, OLED, more freedom of movement, and controler functionality SHOULD be what distinguishes premium from entry.
    Making the peasants sick is how you kill a market.

    • Voldenuit
    • 3 years ago

    “Hi, I’m Barf. I’m my own best friend!”

      • CuttinHobo
      • 3 years ago

      Not in here, mister – this is a Mercedes!

    • ImSpartacus
    • 3 years ago

    Low-end vr seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

    I can’t wait until that vr industrial group gets their hands around this.

      • CuttinHobo
      • 3 years ago

      I agree. I don’t want experiences with a low-end model spoiling it for everybody. =/

        • ozzuneoj
        • 3 years ago

        My thoughts exactly. If low end vr headsets with low refresh rates and bad displays become a “thing”, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a VR crash like the video game crash of the early 80s.

        … Only it’ll be a lot less noticeable.

      • CScottG
      • 3 years ago

      I can see it being viable in a mobile context.. rather like an add-on to something like a gameboy.

      ..BUT isn’t that already covered by the mobile phone VR segment?

      -so yeah, disastrous move to undercut the format’s viability.

      (..and it’s not as if items like this don’t become cheaper over time, hell – just look at the tablet market and all of the stuff flooding-out of China, they basically wait one generation until they have access to the prior gen. display and dump that on the market at really low prices.)

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