Currently, there's a pretty big gap between mobile VR, like Google's Daydream View and Samsung's Gear VR, and the high-end experiences of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Microsoft is looking to bridge that divide with a platform it (somewhat confusingly) calls Windows Mixed Reality, and now Dell has announced the Visor, its first headset to run on that system.
Microsoft has been quietly toiling away on its augmented reality system, the HoloLens, for a few years now, but there's still no word on a consumer-ready version. Instead, the company teased in October last year that it would partner up with hardware companies like Dell, Lenovo, HP and Acer to develop a range of virtual reality – sorry, "Mixed Reality" – headsets.
The idea is to "democratize" VR and AR, by allowing different companies to develop their own hardware to run on an agnostic central system hooked up to a PC. Although the first products will be VR experiences, Microsoft may be hedging its bets by calling the platform Windows Mixed Reality, allowing it the freedom to eventually add HoloLens-style AR devices to the suite.
Lenovo was the first cab off the ranks, outlining its headset at CES back in January, and now Dell has pulled the wraps off its own hardware ahead of the IFA expo that kicks off in Berlin on Friday. Dell's Visor makes use of inside-out tracking, meaning it has cameras built into the headset that keep watch over the user's surroundings and track controllers in 360 degrees. That simplifies setup and use, since it doesn't require any external sensors, like the Vive's Lighthouse trackers, placed around the room.
Comfort is a focus, with Dell boasting that the headset is well-cushioned against the wearer's head and face, and that the device's weight has been balanced so the nose isn't carrying the whole load. The headband can be easily adjusted for each user with a thumbwheel, and once a user has it just the way they like it, it won't need to be realigned every time they come back to the real world for air as the eyepiece can flip up out of the way.
Dell is also making controllers for the headset apparently modeled off Microsoft's own, which in turn are clearly inspired by the Oculus Touch. The company says the Visor Controllers provide six degrees of movement tracked by the headset, and there's a thumb stick and buttons for input, plus haptic feedback. In keeping with Microsoft's vision of a hardware agnostic system, Dell also says the Visor has the potential to communicate with different brands of headsets on the Windows Mixed Reality platform.
Microsoft has also revealed more details on the kind of content we can expect on the system. The first wave of content partners include video services like Hulu and Sky VR, and games like Minecraft, Superhot, and eventually Halo. But perhaps the biggest source of content is the partnership with Valve's Steam VR, which already has a pretty huge library of games like Job Simulator, Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality.
The Dell Visor will be available in the next few months, with the headset alone selling for US$349.99, the controllers going for $99.99 and both bundled together for $449.99. Dell says more details will be announced at Microsoft's IFA keynote on Friday.
Some of the upcoming content for Windows Mixed Reality can be seen in the video below.