The wait is getting shorter.
Microsoft planted the seeds for affordable augmented-reality (AR) and virtual-reality (AR) experiences with this spring's release of the Windows 10 Creators Update. Later this year, PC owners who pony up a little extra cash for a new Windows-compatible mixed-reality headset will finally get to see (and hear) what the fuss is about.
Intended to help push AR and VR into the mainstream, Windows 10 Creators Update includes software components that provide convincing virtual experiences on Windows PCs with modest specifications. Currently, leading VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive fetch prices of $499 and $799, respectively. Last fall, Microsoft announced that it was working with its hardware partners on headsets with prices starting at $299.
At this week's Computex 2017 tradeshow in Taipei, some of those hardware makers offered an early look at their headsets, which are slated to start hitting store shelves during the 2017 holiday season.
Developers in the U.S. and Canada can get their hands on both the Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition versions of Acer's and HP's headsets early, by pre-ordering now. Both models feature dual 1,440-pixel by 1,400-pixel LCD displays that offer a 95-degree horizontal field of view and a refresh rate of 90 Hz. Acer's headset is priced at $299 USD while HP's headset sells for $329.
Eschewing the bright blue of Acer's unit and the subdued black used by HP, Dell decided to drape its Windows Mixed Reality Headset in white.
"Dell's stylish white headset is uniquely focused on user comfort, designed by the same team that crafts their premium XPS and Alienware PCs," said Peter Han, vice president of Partner Devices and Solutions at Microsoft, in a May 31 announcement.
In a separate blog post, Gary Radburn, director of Workstation Virtualization, Commercial VR and AR at Dell, demonstrated how the design evolved since an early prototype was first displayed at CES. Like other upcoming mixed-reality headsets for Windows, it borrows the inside-out tracking capabilities found in HoloLens, Microsoft's high-end headset ($3,000). Inside-out tracking enables the device to accurately keep track of its position relative to its surroundings without the aid of external sensors and other tracking devices.
ASUS is adding a futuristic spin to its headset with a front cover panel that features a polygonal design, along with a motion controller offering six degrees of freedom (up/down, left/right, forward/back, yaw, pitch and roll). Finally, Lenovo is also preparing an affordable headset with similar specifications. Demonstrating its platform-agnostic approach to VR. Earlier this month the Chinese PC maker announced a collaboration with Google to produce a standalone Daydream headset that doesn't require a phone or PC to operate.