At yesterday’s Microsoft event, the tech giant announced they’d be jumping onto the virtual reality bandwagon with both feet, releasing their own range of headsets, with inside-out tracking, for $299.
The two most surprising parts here are the inside out tracking, and the $299 price point. Inside-out tracking is the bleeding edge of virtual reality right now, with all current systems needing a mix of lampposts, lasers and external cameras to make everything work together. Oculus are currently trialing an inside-out tracking system with their Santa Cruz prototype, but it’s not quite finished yet and it’ll probably sell for more than $299. The real difference is that while Santa Cruz is self-contained in one unit, Microsoft’s offering does still seem to be connected by a wire.
Let’s go back to that pricepoint. Pretty much every serious consumer VR platform sells for more than $299, with PC headsets currently selling for around double that cost.
HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer are all listed as partners in Microsoft’s virtual reality adventures, although many of them are already working in virtual reality on their own projects and partnerships away from Microsoft. Acer is working on Starbreeze’s StarVR headset, Asus showed off its own leather-strapped device at Computex, and Lenovo have been working on a mobile VR setup. Dell and HP don’t have a VR headset, but they have produced backpack-mounted PCs, which are only really a thing because of virtual reality’s existence.
Missing from the list of partners is Oculus, a company that Microsoft have worked closely with in the past, particularly the announcement that the Oculus Rift would work with the Xbox One, which hasn’t yet come to pass. We’ll find out more shortly, but their absence is interesting.