HTC Vive, Oculus Rift probably won't be part of Windows Mixed Reality

Windows Mixed Reality is shaping up to be a compelling and unique experience on its own. The demos we've seen offer a glimpse into a virtual world where many different kinds of devices can participate in the same basic ecosystem, and users can choose between full immersion and augmented potential. Microsoft's discussion of a "spectrum" of experiences in Mixed Reality leads those who already own VR hardware to wonder what might be possible for these existing devices.

Long story short, don't hold your breath.

Microsoft isn't saying this is impossible, but it's unlikely you're going to see Windows Mixed Reality support for Oculus Rift or HTC Vive anytime soon.

Microsoft's big vision for Mixed Reality right now is one of unity. While the hardware may come from different manufacturers, and some headsets may offer more features or a better experience, the core functionality is the same. That core functionality is the inside-out tracking that makes the headsets and motion controllers work. The same technology baked into Hololens fit into a noticeably cheaper VR headset, making it possible for you to walk around a room without the use of tracking sensors mounted in the corners of your room or on your desk in front of you. This feature is a big part of Microsoft's message to consumers, but it's also a big part of the message to developers.

From Microsoft:

We believe [mixed reality] is a spectrum, and it goes from holograms all the way back to virtual reality. We're building a platform that really embraces the whole spectrum. The platform itself actually scaled for developers. Hololens and these fully occluded or immersive virtual reality headsets share a sensor technology, and the reason that's important is developers can count on a similar movement and tracking capabilities across that entire spectrum.

HTC Vive

Clearly, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift don't fit that description. Both of these headsets use sensors to track you within a defined space, and everything must stay inside that space for everything to work the way it is supposed to. HTC maintains its method is best because it allows for a more precise form of tracking that feels a more real when interacting with things. Microsoft wants to offer a "world scale" solution that functions in whatever room you are in with basically no configuration or setup. Offering multiple devices at multiple price points with that feature is the play for ensuring developers support this new platform.

However, Microsoft isn't closing the door on these headsets entirely. According to Microsoft's Alex Kipman, a technical fellow in the company's Windows and Devices Group, it's up to HTC and Oculus to reach out to Microsoft so both companies can work together to support Windows Mixed Reality. It's also important to remember this will in no way interfere with the current experiences and stores Oculus and Steam already have on Windows.

As for whether these streams will cross any time soon, it really doesn't seem like that's a priority on either side.

Russell is a tech nerd who chases the best of everything, from phones to game consoles to laptops and everything glowing or beeping. He's the Managing Editor of gaming content for Mobile Nations and can be found contributing to all of the Mobile Nations sites. Reach out on Twitter!

  • So if I buy one of these headsets I wont be able to play SteamVR games with it? Or is that unrelated to the Oculus and Vive discussion? Sorry, Im unstudied in these things.
  • It's unrelated. They'll work just fine with SteamVR. 
  • Individual games or game platforms will have to decide which they will support, or support both. Reminds me of the old days when 3D graphics hardware first came out and you had 3DFX, Matrox and others all pushing their standard. Finally, DirectX came along and made things a little simpler. We'll see if something like that happens with VR.
  • Do you remember the first ever 3d vga, thw S3 viene :) ? And the Diamond Monster 3D :) ???
  • I put off getting a Vive or Rift when I first heard of the upcoming Windows devices. Inside out tracking is the way to go.
  • That's stupid and completely against a unified experience. I'm sure that HTC, Valve, and Oculus would be more than happy to do all of the work to make their headsets compatible if the platform turns out well. I bought a Vive and it is absolutely amazing and there is no way I am buying another VR headset anytime soon.
  • It's not about what they are or aren't willing to do. They can't modify existing hardware that's already sold to consumers, that's the problem. Edit: going forward it is still a possibility as stated in the article.
  • They don't need to modify any hardware. The outside-in tracking technology doesn't change the use cases of the devices and doesn't add any limitations that the Windows headsets have. Both have to be connected to a computer and aren't portable in that sense. It's all a matter of software and Microsoft is a software company first and foremost. Microsoft supports its competitors on mobile so they should definitely support their allies on desktop.
  • After Microsoft mobile flop, it s hard to pretend OEM trust in Statya Nadella again... And they re right.
  • Well...those aren't mixed reality headsets. They're full blown VR headsets. As the article points out, they were designed with certain aspects in mind and both were done BEFORE Microsoft decided to turn their Holographic plaftorm into Mixed Reality. And honestly, I don't think owners of the Vive or the Oculus could care less if they don't get access to Windows Mixed Reality. They didn't buy their headsets for that anyway.
  • VR is totally different. They are Virtual worlds. For gaming. AR is reality and computer generated overlapped. So this announcement is kind of a non announcement to me. I didn't expect them to work with it. The glasses in VR are just a screen. Whilst AR is more glasses with imagery overlapping.
  • Windows Mixed Reality seems a little closer to VR than something like HoloLens. At least, it is if I'm reading this correctly:
  • Or, with proper cameras in front of the headset, the reality can can displayed (with additional overlay) on the screen. For now it seems there is too much technical limitations to go for transparent screens with large fov.
  • Ummm. No. I don't think you understand...these ARE VR headsets. What Microsoft plans for them is a slightly different experience but these are VR headsets. Not different than rift or vive at all.
  • Big mistake on Microsoft's part; they are the ones who should have reached out to occulus and HTC with solution for support; if they exclude the only existing succesful VR headsets, Microsoft will create a lot of bad blood and bad PR for intels and be sure that all owners of HTC and Occulus will be against Microsoft if they sideline these far superior devices.
  • Oculus and Vive will NEVER hand over control to another company.    All those companies have their own ecosystems to foster. Microsoft has thier own with AR/VR. Either way VR's future is mobile, standalone self contained HMDs. Rift and Vive/SteamVR has no future in that and everybody is moving beyond Lighthouse, and Constellation.    These no point in suppprting a aging tech that is going to be replaced in the future.