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I finally believe in Microsoft's mixed reality vision

May 23, 2017 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Engadget

Using HoloLens and Acer headsets in a shared environment is fascinating.

For years, Microsoft has been talking about its dream of mixed reality -- the idea that AR and VR headsets can work together in harmony across virtual and physical environments. But until now, it really has just been talk. At its Build developer conference this week, I finally saw a mixed reality demo that made Microsoft's ambitious vision seem achievable. It was more than just shared VR -- something we've seen plenty of already -- it was a group experience that brought together HoloLens and Acer's virtual-reality headsets in intriguing ways.


To be clear, I was running through Microsoft's Mixed Reality Academy at Build, a simplified version of a developer class meant for journalists and analysts. It goes over the basics of building a virtual experience in Unity, while also giving you time to actually explore those environments. I went through an earlier version of the class two years ago that was entirely focused on HoloLens, but this week's version showed how HoloLens (and future AR headsets) can coexist with Acer's Windows 10 VR gear.

The centerpiece of this year's demo was a puzzle-filled island, which featured a beach, a small forest and a large volcano. Like all-seeing gods, the HoloLens users could see the VR headset wearers' tiny avatars running through the island. Everyone wearing an Acer headset, meanwhile, had an on-the-ground view, with the HoloLens viewers appearing as menacing clouds in the horizon. The demo is basically an example of how these different types of devices could be used to observe a single environment.

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