Just when the world expected that Microsoft will only drop a new Surface device while throwing some HoloLens updates in the process, the company also unveiled a range of virtual reality (VR) headsets. These devices offer exciting technologies that can give them distinctive advantages over existing VR headsets in the market today.
It is clear that the new VR headset line is different from the Microsoft HoloLens, which is an augmented reality technology that brings virtual objects into the real world. The VR headsets works more like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, among others. What sets the line apart from most competing VR gears, however, is that all the headsets are outfitted with inside-out tracking sensors.
This particular addition eliminates the need for sensors and laser systems required in other VR setups. The Oculus, for example, has teamed up with Steam to build lighthouse base stations, which uses laser to track objects in the virtual world. It is important to note that laser tracking systems are being sold separately.
Microsoft claims that its VR headsets are more immersive and allows more freedom. What is also quite interesting is that it does not require an expensive computer rig to run.
"Unlike every other virtual reality headset in the market today, there will be zero need for a separate room and complicated setup," Microsoft said in a blog post.
Each of the VR headsets in the product line has been made in partnership with Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo. This list also includes a China-based startup called AntVR. Microsoft has not explained the extent of its involvement in the collaboration, but it appears to be a bit similar to Google's strategy with its Nexus line.
Consumers should also note that the manufacturing partners are minor players in the VR reality industry. Oculus' non-inclusion has particularly piqued some observers' interest because Microsoft has a record of working with the Facebook-owned company in the past.
On the other hand, Microsoft has been known for diving into hardware manufacturing itself if it wants to push key softwares into the market. For example, the company reportedly built the Smart Band to help get its health apps gain traction.
In the case of the VR line, Microsoft must be pushing for an emergent creative suite, which should include the Paint app. Relevant apps are presently being packaged as Windows 10 Creators Update.
Now, the VR headsets announced will start retailing for $300. That price point is significantly lower than the Oculus, which costs $800. Microsoft has not revealed a release date, but there is an expectation of an early 2017 rollout.