Microsoft is determined to turn Windows into a showcase for virtual reality (VR) experiences. The company has acquired privately-held Donya Labs AB, a provider of automatic 3D data-optimization software based in Sweden, along with its Simplygon 3D platform, for an undisclosed amount.
Simplygon is typically used by game developers to enhance the visual fidelity of their virtual worlds and squeeze out better performance. Now, the technology may be poised to bring 3D to the masses.
"From our early days delivering advanced level-of-detail solutions, to the adoption of Simplygon SDK by most leading AAA game development studios, and our more recent expansion into enterprise AR/VR, Simplygon has made automatic 3D data-optimization increasingly more accessible to developers," posted CEO Matt Connors and co-founders Ulrik Lindahl and Koshi Hamedi, on Simplygon's website. "Our next challenge is 3D for Everyone, the ultimate accessibility!"
Microsoft is banking on its forthcoming Windows 10 Creators Update to help bring both 3D content consumption and creation into the mainstream. It includes a Paint 3D app that will enable users to create 3D models and capture real-world objects using the cameras on their smartphones. Meanwhile, users will be able to share their creations at a new online hub called Remix 3D.
Even Office is getting into the game. The update will allow users to embed 3D models into Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, adding some eye-catching effects to their documents and other Office content.
"Simplygon's technology and talent will strengthen our position in 3D creation, making it easier to capture, create and share in 3D," said Kudo Tsunoda, corporate vice president of the Next Gen Experiences unit within Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, in a Jan. 17 announcement. "It builds on and extends our aspirations to empower a new wave of creativity with the Windows 10 Creators Update, Paint 3D and our online creator community at Remix3D.com."
By adding OS-level 3D functionality, the Creators Update is also expected to herald in an era of affordable augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality headsets for the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft's hardware partners, including Dell, HP and Lenovo, are readying VR headsets this year with prices starting at $299, or roughly half the cost of an Oculus Rift, which retails for $599.
It's not the first time that Microsoft has tapped the game development community to expand on its 3D know-how.
In 2015, the company acquired Havok from Intel. Havok's physics engine for 3D games has been used in hundreds of video games, including Halo, Microsoft's own flagship property. The technology has also been used in such films as Harry Potter and The Matrix.
A year earlier, Microsoft acquired Mojang, the company behind the blockbuster Minecraft game, for $2.5 billion. Although its blocky visuals aren't exactly considered cutting-edge, the game is an early supporter of VR gaming. Select editions of Minecraft support the Oculus Rift and Gear VR headsets.