Microsoft Readies Windows Mixed Reality Developer Kits

The company partners with Acer to start deliveries of the kit, complete with a head-mounted display, later this month.


Developers will soon have the tools for creating immersive, mixed-reality experiences in Windows, announced Microsoft on March 1 during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The company revealed plans to start shipping the Windows Mixed Reality developer kit later this month that include new hardware from Acer. The Taiwanese Microsoft hardware partner, best known for its notebooks and other devices, will contribute the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Development Edition headset.

The device features two LCD displays, each with a resolution of 1,400 by 1,400 pixels and a refresh rate of 90Hz. A single cable provides both HDMI 2.0 and USB 3.0 for connectivity, while a 3.5mm jack provides microphone and audio-out support.

The Windows Mixed Reality developer kit will also include access to preview builds of Windows 10, a software development kit (SDK) and documentation, wrote Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman, in a blog post.

Kipman also revealed that the reality-bending technology is being extended to a prominent member of his company's hardware portfolio.

"We're also excited to share that Windows Mixed Reality experiences will light up on other devices over time, beyond desktop and Microsoft HoloLens," he stated. "Our plan is to bring mixed reality content to the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio, in 2018."

Rival Sony beat Microsoft to the punch last year when it unveiled its PlayStation VR Headset in March 2016, and subsequently launched the device the following October. The $399 device plugs into the PlayStation 4 video game system, transporting users into virtual worlds. It can also be used to view 2D content like conventional game titles or movies on a virtual screen.

Microsoft is on a mission to bring mixed reality, the company's take on augmented reality, with the upcoming Creators Update for Windows 10.

Expected to arrive sometime this spring, the update will include software components that enable mixed-reality experiences on standard Windows PCs and relatively low-cost head-mounted displays (HMDs) starting at $299. In addition to Acer, Microsoft has enlisted 3Glasses, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo in the effort.

During the WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Community) 2016 conference in Shenzhen, China, this past December, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, announced the software giant had shared the HMD specifications it co-developed with Intel with the aforementioned hardware partners.

"Windows is the only platform unifying the mixed reality ecosystem, providing inside-out tracking for HMDs, a single platform and standardized inputs for developers, and a consistent interface with a single store for customers," said Myerson in a Dec. 7, 2016, announcement. Part of Microsoft's plan to popularizing Windows Mixed Reality is to make a splash in China.

Myerson said his company has summited HoloLens, Microsoft's flagship mixed-reality offering, for Chinese regulatory approval. The device is expected to be available there in the first half of 2017, the same timeframe Windows 10 support is coming to the S1 HMD from Chinese headset manufacturer 3Glasses.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...