Microsoft's $300 VR HMD Requirements Released; Indicates All-Inclusive VR Prioritised Over Gaming

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅08.12.2016 14:52:37

Despite smaller players slowly releasing their own Head-Mounted Displays, market-leaders Oculus and HTC remain by some margin the biggest players in PC Virtual Reality for the consumer. However in October software giant Microsoft announced that they too were working on a HMD of their very own, priced aggressively and with features currently not available on the VIVE and Rift solutions. This week they have released the minimum specifications for this new class of HMD, and the details are pretty revealing of the systems' capabilities and priorities.

Microsoft Windows VR Hardware Requirements (Min.)

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 2880×1440 @ 60 Hz or HDMI 2.0 or DP 1.3+ with 2880×1440 @ 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

Note that GPU requirement. Currently premium VR focuses on gaming capability, and hence have minimum specs which can drive the games at the 90fps required for a pleasant experience. Typically that's around the GTX 970/R9 290 mark (or current-generation equivalents), a far cry from the integrated Intel graphics of Microsoft's VR. A similar tale can be told with the CPU requirement, a measly dual-core affair rather than meaty quad-core hardware. Clearly gaming (or at least triple-A gaming) isn't a priority.

Where Microsoft aim to make a difference is in bringing VR to a more cost-effective and all-inclusive baseline, and in part that will be through a new partnership with Intel on Project EVO. Project EVO leverages tech from both companies to streamline hardware implementations in HMDs and PCs, improve key aspects of the technology such as sensor design, biometric recognition and responsiveness, and reduce end-user costs to a more affordable level. The final Windows 10 HMD design should retail from $299, far below the $600+ of a Rift or VIVE.

Perhaps the most intriguing development outlined is the introduction of 'six degrees of freedom' sensors within the HMD itself, allowing for complex spacial tracking out the need for external sensors (as with the Rift) or beacons (VIVE's implementation). This technology would go a long way towards decoupling the HMD from static desk- or room-bound VR and make it far more ideal for 'on-the-go' solutions with a laptop etc.

As with the Hololens, new Microsoft's new HMD design aims to make use of mixed or augmented reality rather than solely an enclosed approach. Here a far greater emphasis is placed on sensor technology rather than rendering complex 3D environments, and as a result 3D rendering hardware such as a high-end graphics card it at less of a premium. In theory, a well-supported SDK could decouple the platform's minimum requirements from that of the games on the platform, and so a VR-enabled future would be similar to today where you buy non-HMD hardware based on software requirements rather than a high bar dictated by the VR platform from the start.

By all accounts we're still a long way from retail models being available. Development kits will apparently become available around the time of GDC 2017 (late February), whilst consumers are unlikely to see it before 2017 comes to a close.


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