Microsoft’s partners will ship a new line of virtual reality headsets to take advantage of Windows 10’s VR and holographic capabilities. At today’s event, Microsoft said that the headsets will start at $299 and will include inside-out tracking sensors, obviating the need for external cameras or laser systems like those on the current Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer are all listed as partners.
While relatively little is known about the headsets, the six-degree-of-freedom tracking system sounds similar to Oculus’ Santa Cruz prototype, which also includes inside-out tracking. They are distinct from Microsoft HoloLens, an augmented or “mixed” reality headset that projects virtual objects into the real world. While the headsets don’t need external trackers, the one we saw on stage today still looks to be wired, not totally self-contained like Santa Cruz.
Microsoft’s listed partners are all already working in VR to some extent. Acer is working with Starbreeze to produce the high-end StarVR headsets, and Asus showed off a leather-strapped headset behind glass at Computex. Lenovo and Chinese startup AntVR partnered for a mobile VR setup. While HP and Dell don’t have headsets, both have produced backpack-mounted PCs. None of these companies, however, are major players in the consumer headset space, which is dominated by HTC, Sony, Samsung, and Facebook-owned Oculus. In fact, given that Microsoft has worked closely with Oculus in the past, it’s interesting to see the company absent here — at the announcement of what is essentially a new line of Windows VR products.