Microsoft reveals its next steps to bring mixed reality to the masses

Microsoft is readying its Windows PC and device-maker partners to build new extended reality devices and the PCs to which they'll be tethered.

Microsoft officials outlined the company's planned next steps toward making mixed reality more real during the opening day of Microsoft's WinHEC China event in Shenzhen.

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Earlier this year, company execs said Microsoft would be providing the device makers attending WinHEC with specs and other relevant information to enable them to build "extended reality" devices using Microsoft's Windows Holographic platform as the anchor.

And on December 7, Microsoft filled in some of those missing pieces.

The company provided officially the PC specs that will be required to support the first VR headsets that will be able to handle mixed reality. Microsoft officials said in October that Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo all were committed to providing these kinds of headsets for prices starting at $299 at the beginning of 2017. Unlike the HoloLens headset, which is a standalone Windows 10 device, these coming headsets/head-mounted displays (HMDs) need to be tethered to PCs to obtain their processing power.

The PC specs, developed together by Microsoft and Intel, required for tethering these VR headsets:

  • 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 HzHDMI 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

Microsoft and Intel also are collaborating on the "Project Alloy" all-in-one HMD reference design that includes Optane, Realsense, Thunderbolt, and eventually the removal of the tethering cable.

Microsoft officials said they will be providing HMD developer kits to those interested in building these kinds of headsets as of February 2017 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

At WinHEC, Microsoft officials also said they've submitted Microsoft's HoloLens for government approval in China, with the expectation of making the device available to developers there during the first half of 2017. Microsoft execs also said 3Glasses, the leading China-based VR hardware maker, plans to bring Windows Holographic support to its S1 HMD some time in the first half of 2017.

Microsoft is holding two WinHEC China events this month, the first being the Shenzhen one December 8 and 9. There will be a repeat of the event December 14-15 in Taiwan. Microsoft officials said 500 hardware-partner engineers are attending this week's WinHEC China event.

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