It's official. In about six weeks, Microsoft's servers will start pushing out the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update to users worldwide.
The Redmond, Wash. software giant set an Oct. 17 release date during the IFA 2017 consumer electronics tradeshow in Berlin, Germany today. The update contains many new features, including an eye-tracking component that can serve as a lifeline for users with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and new mixed-reality capabilities that can deposit users into convincing virtual experiences with the appropriate peripherals.
Microsoft's take on mixed reality uses a blend of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) techniques to display virtual 3D objects that can appear anchored to the physical world. "By combining our physical and digital worlds, we believe mixed reality is the next step in the evolution of human computing," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, in a Sept. 1 announcement.
HoloLens, a self-contained headset that delivers mixed-reality experiences, best exemplifies that vision. But with a price tag of $3,000, Windows-based mixed reality was a niche market made up of tech-savvy enterprises, developers and deep-pocketed enthusiasts.
The upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update may change that.
"For the first time, we are talking about a mixed reality system that fully immerses you in the experience not limited to a mobile device screen size. One that is easy to setup, not requiring you to mount cameras around the room, just put the headset on your head, plug it into your PC and get started, leaving your hands free to interact with the mixed world," Myerson continued.
The first batch of Windows Mixed Reality headsets will also ship on Oct. 17, confirmed Myerson. Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo are all expected to ship headsets this fall just before the holiday shopping season. Prices will start at $299. Asus will follow in the spring with a lightweight headset featuring a distinctive geometric pattern on its faceplate that recalls the polygons used to build 3D computer models.
Until Oct. 17 arrives, Microsoft remains focused on buttoning up the update.
Earlier this week, the company released build 16278 of the operating system to members of the Windows Insider early-access program. As promised last week by Microsoft, forthcoming preview builds of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will mostly contain bug fixes and general improvements, not new features.
True to the software maker's word, build 16278 fixes a print driver issue that could cause problems while attempted to print from a 32-bit application running on 64-bit versions of the operating system. In one case, Microsoft removed a feature, the ability to take HDR (high dynamic range) screenshots in the Xbox app. The company plans to introduce the HDR screenshots sometime in the future, said Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program at Microsoft, in a blog post that contains a list of the changes.