Computex: Microsoft wants Windows Holographic to power all VR devices, not just the HoloLens

The HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and more: they should all run Windows, Microsoft believes. But will Oculus buy in?

Think of virtual reality devices as PCs and you’ll better understand what Microsoft wants to do with Windows Holographic—establish it as the de facto operating system for augmented reality and virtual reality devices.

At Computex on Tuesday night, Microsoft executives said that it had opened up Windows Holographic to all devices, and had begun working with HTC’s Vive team to port the Windows Holographic Windows 10 interface to it. According to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Device Group at Microsoft, “Windows is the only mixed reality platform.”

Myerson showed off a video (below) where a HoloLens user was able to “see” the avatar used by a Oculus Rift user, and vice versa. The two, plus an additional HoloLens user, were all able to collaborate on a shared project, passing holographic assets back and forth. On stage, two employees did the same, digitally painting a virtual motorcycle that was “seen” by both a HoloLens as well as an HTC Vive.

hololens working with oculus rift

A HoloLens user interacts with the same digital motorcycle a VR user sees, via Windows 10 and Windows Holographic.

“Many of today’s devices and experiences do not work with each other, provide different user interfaces, interaction models, input methods, peripherals, and content,” Myerson said. Microsoft intends to solve that problem with Windows 10 and Windows Holographic.

Why this matters: Microsoft’s announcement shouldn’t be seen as totally unexpected, given that the Rift and the Vive are tethered to a Windows 10 PC anyway. Microsoft boasts that more than 300 million devices today run Windows 10—but an additional 80 million VR devices could be sold by 2020, all of which Microsoft covets as potential Windows 10 devices. Still, in the list of partners Microsoft cited — Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, HTC, Acer, ASUS, CyberPowerPC, Dell, Falcon Northwest, HP, iBuyPower, Lenovo, and MSI—one name is conspicuously absent: Oculus, and its Oculus Rift. It’s unclear whether or not the omission means that Oculus isn’t willing to play ball, though that’s the easiest conclusion to leap to.

holographic partners

Microsoft's list of Windows Holographic partners.

Devices of all sorts, connected by Windows

Windows Holographic and Windows 10 are almost the same thing; Windows 10 essentially powers the Microsoft HoloLens, and the interface uses common Windows 10 apps, a Start menu, as well as key components like Cortana. Still, the HoloLens is an augmented reality device, overlaying virtual objects onto the real world. VR devices aren't designed to really see real-world objects, although analysts believe the two will eventually collide in a future Microsoft today is calling mixed reality.

“Mixed reality is coming to Windows PCs,” Myerson told attendees at the Comdex show in Taipei. “Together we will break down the barrier between virtual and physical reality.” (An unofficial livestream of the event was broadcast by Roland Quandt, and is the source of the images embedded in this article.)

Naturally, gestures like the “air click” that the HoloLens uses can’t be necessarily reproduced on other platforms. But Microsoft already began bridging the gap with a physical “clicker” that the company began shipping to developers, and the company’s May update to Windows Holographic added Bluetooth mouse support. Presumably, those same interfaces will be ported to the Vive and other VR devices as well. If they can't be directly translated, it seems likely that Microsoft will use its Cortana digital assistant as an intermediary.

Some of those devices will lack capabilities that the HoloLens enjoys, such as the ability to “scan” real-world objects into its virtual space. But the implication is that if those other VR devices are running Windows, they’ll at least be able to see and manipulate the digital assets that the HoloLens creates.

But Myerson acknowledged that Microsoft has work to do, and closed his Computex presentation by asking the VR community to sign up for the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Shenzhen, China, as well as Taipei. Those sessions are scheduled to both run between June 28 and July 1, he said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftHoloLensvirtual reality

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?