Microsoft held a large 2-hour briefing on October 26th to show off some of their new technologies. Aside from the huge news on the Surface branding, gamers and virtual reality enthusiasts benefited from several bits of news coming over the next handful of months.
At the beginning of the briefing, Terry Myerson, the Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, came out on stage to introduce himself and host the majority of the event. He explained that the next major update for Windows 10 will be called the “Creators Update”. This update was boiled down to 3 key areas: Mixed reality, Gaming, and Connecting with people. I’m going to break down the virtual reality, mixed reality, and gaming parts of the talk.
During one of the segments, Taj Reid, Experience Design for Microsoft, came out on stage and showed off the user interface for the Microsoft HoloLens and how users can take a hologram made by someone and bring it in the the living space. He proceeded to move a sandcastle creation another speaker made in the new “Paint 3D” program on stage and then put as a full 3D object on a table. He proceeded to show how online shopping can be optimized with seeing a full chair he wanted to purchase that he moved to be in front of a table to see how it looks.
Taj, then, moved to using a virtual reality based HDM accessory that has him in a custom made room. Each wall has something different on it. On one wall, he’s watching a sporting event as a wall television. Or, he turned around and showed an actual shelf of his favorite apps (i.e. Skype, Paint 3D), the 3D sandcastle from earlier, and an open Microsoft Edge (Because, Microsoft.). On the wall between them, was a balcony with a beautiful seascape and floating islands. Then, he decided to switch it up. He called up the menu and told it he wanted to take a tour of Rome.He screen changed to a full 360 video of Italy, right in front of the Pantheon. He told the HMD he wanted to take a closer look and the Pantheon became a cutaway to show some of the interior.
Terry came back out on stage and explained that HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer are all in development of Virtual Reality headsets that will be completely compatible with Windows 10 and the Creator Update, starting at an incredible $299, nearly half the price of any of the competition. These HMDs will be the only displays to ship out with inside-out six degrees of freedom sensors. This removes all need for a separate room or workspace. No details on how compatible the headsets will be with individual VR ready games, but the HMDs are capable of anything that was shown during the briefing.
Terry moved on the Gaming next. He showed a video of the League of Legends Championships and explained that more people watched that event last year than the World Series. He explained that nearly twice as many people watch people play games than to play the games themselves. Videos about Microsoft’s own Minecraft have been watched 50 billion times. He wants to focus on the social and creative aspect of gaming.
He brought out Jenn McCoy from Xbox to talk about Xbox and Windows 10. She starts off with game broadcasting and streaming. She brought up a stream of Forza Horizon 3 done by her friend “Jason”. He’s broadcasting over the streaming website Beam. She shows off that you can interact with the person playing by telling them to “Go Offroad” or “Take that Shortcut” that he responded near immediately. With the Creators Update, Beam is coming to Windows as a built in app. She shows off how simple it is to jump into a game of Forza Horizon 3 on Beam for Windows 10, and explains there’s “virtually no lag” after talking to one of her “viewers” almost instantaneously. With Beam, she explained users can create a team of sorts and anytime someone on the team starts streaming, the team is notified, whether it’s on PC or on Xbox One.
She moved on to something deemed “Custom Tournaments” in the Creators Update. This gives the “gamers the ability to create their own tournaments and challenges, just like you would if you were making a fantasy football team”. This seems to be integrated more to Xbox and Windows Store games, but it’s never clarified during the presentation. This new feature will be a part of the Xbox app for Windows and can really set a new standard for tournaments and events in the future if implemented correctly. She demoed the app with Killer Instinct, setting a single elimination bracket-style tournament. Setting a date and time for the event, the countdown comes up when you send the invite out.
The final part of her talk goes into the Xbox One S. She starts playing Forza Horizon 3 on the system (instead of the PC she was on earlier), hooked to a 4K display with high dynamic range, and explains how detailed the games get when played in true form. She goes into the Xbox Play Anywhere for a moment, then moves into the 4K video and blu-ray option for the Xbox One S. As her final announcement for the Creators Update, the Xbox One S is getting bitstream audio pass through with Dolby Atmos support for blu-rays.
The event went on for quite a while longer, but none of the other parts had anything to do with VR or gaming.
What are you most excited for? Virtual and mixed reality? New Windows 10 based HMDs? Beam for Windows 10? Custom Tournaments? Dolby Atmos on Xbox One S? Sound off in the comments below!