Windows Mixed-Reality Hardware Goes on Display at IFA 2017

Attendees at this year's IFA conference in Germany can get a first-hand look at the Windows-compatible mixed-reality gear arriving this holiday season.

Virtual Reality Devices 2

During this week's IFA 2017 consumer electronics tradeshow in Berlin, Germany, Microsoft's OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners are showing off new hardware offerings that capitalize on the new mixed-reality capabilities in the Windows 10 operating system.

Microsoft promised several new and comparatively affordable mixed-reality peripherals this holiday season, courtesy of the Redmond, Wash. software giant's stable of OEMs. "Mixed reality" is Microsoft's Windows-based take on augmented- and virtual-reality (AR/VR), best exemplified by HoloLens, a wireless headset from the company that can display computer-generated 3D content that appears anchored to the physical world.

But HoloLens may be too much of a stretch for the budgets of cost-conscious organizations and most households. The device carries a price tag of $3,000, meaning that all but the most well-heeled businesses and ardent enthusiasts may have trouble justifying the expense.

Soon, users will have more budget-friendly, albeit tethered, options to choose from. They include the Dell Visor, with a weight-balancing system that relieves pressure while using the headset and a flip-up visor that gets out of the way with ease.

On the technology front, the device "features inside-out tracking cameras, with a 360-degree panoramic view so the headset can scan surroundings instead of satellite emitters positioned inside the room," noted Microsoft representative Mollie Ruiz-Hopper in a blog post. "Dell Visor Controllers offer complete flexibility with six degrees of freedom of movement in a three-dimensional space, and allow total control with haptic feedback, thumb stick and buttons fully tracked by sensors in the headset."

The Dell Visor will sell for $359.99 this holiday shopping season in the U.S. and $459.99 when bundled with the matching controllers.

On Aug. 30 Asus formally announced its own Windows Mixed Reality headset, which also features six degrees of motion (forward/back, up/down, left/right, pitch, roll and yaw) tracking.

The headset weighs less than a pound (400 grams) and features a "balanced-crown design" that takes the pressure off a users' faces and noses so they can comfortably wear the unit even for hours of VR experiences. The headset also contains all the sensors required to get up and running. Systems such as the HTC Vive use external sensors or base stations to help track a user's position in 3D space—while the lack of additional software further streamlines the setup process.

"We are excited about our collaboration with ASUS to deliver a Windows Mixed Reality headset, unlocking amazing content experiences on an affordable and easy-to-set-up device," said Peter Han, vice president of Partner Devices and Solutions at Microsoft, in an Aug. 30 announcement. "Windows Mixed Reality, paired with ASUS design and materials, enables a comfortable and fun experience for customers to achieve more and let their imagination wander."

Buyers won't have to look too-far for an Asus-branded compuater that can deliver convincing mixed-reality experiences. The company also announced also the ROG Chimera laptop at IFA 2017. The laptop, introduced on Aug. 30, is powered by an overclocked Intel Core i7-7820HK processor that can reach speeds of up to 4.3GHz and features a high-end Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics subsystem.

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...