Devices supporting Microsoft's push for unified virtual and mixed reality experiences will require a relatively low-end computer and have few other requirements beyond running on Windows 10 and supporting six degrees of freedom, said Alex Kipman, who heads up the project at Microsoft.
"Once a device can do that, the rest we are going to leave open ended," Kipman told Polygon.
During a press conference at WINHEC in China today, Microsoft further explained its plans for helping to create an ecosystem that can support affordable mixed reality headsets, devices that can deliver anything from a virtual reality game to an augmented view of your living room.
Microsoft detailed the system specs required for the low-cost devices. The systems would require at minimum:
- CPU: Intel Mobile Core i5 (e.g. 7200U) Dual-Core with Hyperthreading equivalent
- GPU: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 (GT2) equivalent or greater DX12 API Capable GPU
- RAM: 8GB+ Dual Channel required for integrated Graphics
- HDMI: HDMI 1.4 with 2880x1440 @ 60 Hz, HDMI 2.0 or DP 1.3+ with 2880x1440 @ 90 Hz
- HDD: 100GB+ SSD (Preferred) / HDD
- USB: USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C Port with DisplayPort Alternate Mode
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories
The company also announced several steps it says it’s taking to help make mixed reality mainstream in 2017:
The company submitted its HoloLens for government approval in China, with plans to get the device into the hands of developers there in the first half of 2017.
3Glasses, the leading China-based hardware developer for virtual reality, is bringing Windows 10 support to its S1 head-mounted displays, which is used by more than 5 million customers, in the first half of next year as well.
Microsoft is bringing 360-degree videos to the movies and TV app on Windows 10 for use with head-mounted displays.
Developer kits for these new head-mounted displays will start shipping to developers by February, in time for the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Tonight's news out of China is just the latest in a steady drip-feed of information Microsoft has been releasing on their move into mixed reality since the beginning of the year.
The HoloLens was launched this spring. Over the summer during Computex in Taipai, Microsoft first unveiled its plans to try and unify what it sees as a massive, but fractured market.
"The market for virtual reality devices is expected to be 80 million devices per year by 2020," wrote Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and devices group. "However, many of today’s devices and experiences do not work with each other, provide different user interfaces, interaction models, input methods, peripherals, and content. And most virtual reality experiences can’t mix real people, objects, and environments into the virtual world, making creation and collaboration difficult. This is because they lack the human, environmental and object understanding that is already built into Windows 10."
In October, Microsoft announced its first five partners who will be delivering third-party, Windows 10-powered HMDs. And last week, the company announced that the HoloLens is coming to Asia.
Today's breakdown of the PC requirements shows that a wide variety of computers can support the upcoming devices, including Microsoft's own Surface Books and Razer's laptops.
While Microsoft won't have any requirements for things like field of view or resolution for the headsets, those sorts of specifications will likely have an impact on their level of success.
Kipman declined to give us the specifications of the devices currently in development by third-party partners, but was willing to tell us what the range was.
He said the field of view on the devices will range from a low of 90 degrees to a high of 110 degrees. For comparison sake, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have a field of view of 110. The PlayStation VR has a field of view of 100 degrees.
The resolution of the devices, Kipman said, will range from 1080p to 2K. And the refresh rate will run from 60 to 120 Hz.
"Together," Myerson wrote in a blog post today, "our work will extend these experiences to hundreds of millions of PC and Head Mounted Display (HMD) customers, and raise the bar for what’s possible with Windows PCs."