Microsoft and Acer will begin shipping developer edition mixed reality headsets in March. The kit, which will ship to Microsoft developer partners, will allow businesses and game developers to create and test mixed reality applications across Windows 10 devices.
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The package will include the Acer headset and the software development kit (SDK). With it, developers will gain access to Insider preview builds of the Windows 10 Creators Update, which can be used to build games and tools that combine virtual and augmented reality with the physical world.
Microsoft's selling point for the Windows 10-powered mixed reality headsets is that they require no physical sensors or trackers outside of the headsets and the devices on which the applications run. Although the first round of mixed reality content will likely hit Windows PCs and HoloLens, Microsoft said mixed reality content will be available on Xbox One and Project Scorpio at some point in 2018.
To start, however, every Windows 10 PC will support mixed reality by the end of 2017, and subsequently, Microsoft equipment manufacturers like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer will begin selling VR headsets that start at $299.
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Although the Xbox is the obvious selling point for Microsoft's mixed reality ventures, the company is also making an obvious play at professional designers, creative hobbyists, and businesses willing to experiment with virtual, augmented, and mixed reality business use cases.
The Creators Update event in October 2016 hinted at a future in which consumers would be able to pull a photo of an armoire from an e-commerce website, convert it into a three-dimensional life-size image, and project a hologram of it into their bedrooms in order to determine if it's the right fit and style before purchasing. Companies could also offer virtual tours of showroom floors. You could browse the stores at a mall in Dubai and make purchases without ever leaving your couch in Des Moines.
Before any of these use cases become consumable by the masses, Microsoft and its developers will have to test, test, and test every experience to ensure experience quality, as well as application and operating system security. Once Windows 10 Creators Update is released later this year, the first fully tested and approved experiences should begin to trickle out to the masses.
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The Acer Windows Mixed Reality Development Edition headset will include two high-resolution 1,440-by-1,440 liquid crystal displays, a display refresh rate up to 90Hz, built-in audio out and microphone support through a 3.5mm jack, and a single cable with HDMI 2.0 (display) and USB 3.0 (data) for connectivity. Game developers interested in building content for Windows Mixed Reality can begin signing up today.
Microsoft has been keen on blurring the lines between the desktop and Xbox gaming experiences. Recently, the company announced it would integrate Beam into Windows in order to allow users to broadcast gaming from a Windows device, and then alert all of your Xbox Live connections to help you grow your audience.
Additionally, the revamped Guide on Xbox now looks like the traditional Windows Start menu, and it allows for rapid screen recording, image capture, and live streaming to Beam. Xbox users can now program Cortana to alert them to upcoming gaming and game-viewing sessions.