As Apple invests heavily in AR, Microsoft plans 'mixed reality' support for Xbox, Windows

in Future Apple Hardware
Microsoft apparently sees the same market potential for augmented and virtual reality as Apple CEO Tim Cook, and will include support for "mixed reality" in future Windows and Xbox updates in conjunction with future headsets heralded by the new Mixed Reality Development Edition headset.

Microsoft's mixed reality project as defined during Wednesday's Game Developer's Conference covers both full virtual reality with overlays of information over the "real world," and sounds very much like what Apple's Cook refers to when he speaks of augmented reality.

According to a Microsoft webpage discussing the matter, mixed reality "blends real-world and virtual content into hybrid environments" to release users from flat screens. While a great deal of the marketing material covers entertainment uses for the technology, a "virtual office" is profiled in a video detailing Microsoft's vision.

Microsoft still has its own HoloLens product under development, the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Development Edition headset has a pair of LCDs each running at 1440x1440 resolution with a 90Hz refresh rate, data is provided by a single cable with HDMI 2.0 and USB 3.0, and audio and microphone support with a 3.5mm TRRS jack.

As part of the program, Microsoft will offer Windows Mixed Reality headsets starting at $299, with compatible PCs available for $499 and up. Even with the pair required for work on the platform, the cost of entry is still about $300 less than a comparable Oculus Rift setup.

Microsoft's approach seems to be a hybrid of mobile phone-centric offerings like Google's Cardboard and higher-end solutions like Facebook's legally troubled Oculus project. However, diverging from Cook's apparent view of the future of the technology, Microsoft's does require some form of wearable to access mixed reality content.

Apple's stance seems firm

"The smartphone is for everyone, we don't have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it's for everyone. I think AR is that big, it's huge," Cook said in an interview in February. "I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining."

"I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it's not a product per se, it's a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream," added Cook. "I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that's why I get so excited about it."

Apple is quickly growing out its internal AR team through strategic hires and acquisitions including motion capture specialist Faceshift, machine learning and computer vision startup Perceptio, German AR firm Metaio and Flyby Media, among others. Those acquisitions go hand-in-hand with in-house development of transparent displays, iPhone-powered VR rigs, AR maps and other related technologies described in recent patent filings.

In January, Apple was reassigned IP from Metaio for an AR device with advanced point of interest labelling. The pair of transferred patents detail a mobile device capable of detecting its surroundings and displaying generated virtual information to users in real time -- very similar to what Microsoft is proposing with its mixed reality ecosystem.

Recent rumors claim Apple is working with optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss on a specialized AR headset that could debut at some point in 2017. Other rumors suggest that that Apple will first integrate AR hardware and software into a future iPhone model before introducing a wearable display.


  • Reply 1 of 8
    Leave it to Microsoft to even screw up nomenclature. "Mixed reality" reminds me of crazyapplerumors' "Microsoft Windows Media Player 11 Portable Media Player Device Media Player Media Player Media Player."
  • Reply 2 of 8
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,267member
    "Mixed reality" is a perfect description of Microsoft as a company. They haven't the faintest idea where to go or what to do even though way too many people continue to use their products. 
  • Reply 3 of 8
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 1,287member
    Every office needs a virtual puppy. Perhaps it will talk in version 2. 
  • Reply 4 of 8
    It's, like, how much more can the reality be mixed? And the answer is none; none more mixed.
  • Reply 5 of 8
    GrocGroc Posts: 3member

    As Apple invests heavily in AR, Microsoft plans 'mixed reality' support for Xbox, Windows

    Awesome! Now where's my backpack and 40 lb battery pack so I can use that Xbox AR outside of my den?
  • Reply 6 of 8
    Mixed reality: Microsoft Office will have a giant animated 3D paperclip floating above your head, offering to format your letter.
    king editor the grate
  • Reply 7 of 8
    HyperealityHypereality Posts: 58unconfirmed, member
    While I'm no Microsoft fan, the term mixed-reality is the right one.

    VR - 3D models in a virtual 3D graphic space
    AR - 2d layering of information and graphics on a cameras eye view of the world
    MR - 3D models added to a cameras eye or 3D view of the world, i.e. Stereoptic through a head mounted device.

    An iPhone mapping/navigation system using e.g. Metaio for object recognition would be AR

    An Apple HMD e.g.: Zeiss glasses with 3D models rendered would be MR

    We'll hear a lot about MR in future, for now Apple is correctly focused on AR and their vast iPhone installed base.

    Apple are in a unique position to add augmented reality navigation to their device, this for me is the next generation of Maps, whichever of Apple or Google cracks this use case first will sell a vast number of devices... I think it will be Apple because Android is too fragmented as a hardware platform and this will require specialized hardware in the phone until there is a standard chipset available for competitors on Android. Hopefully Apples patents give them a head start.
    [Deleted User]
  • Reply 8 of 8
    HyperealityHypereality Posts: 58unconfirmed, member
    I'll add, Microsoft are about 5 years early with this tech, but it suits them, they have a long term re-invention plan.

    All this stuff we see, including the Surface Studio is niche markets and low volume, but they are generating huge brand credibility and reputation through thus early marketing, thus will pay dividends for them if they can keep going long enough until the transition to pervasive computing based on MR becomes the norm, I think that's a decade out at least, unless Apple does what it did with iPhone sooner than that.
    [Deleted User]
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