Today at its annual Build developer conference, Microsoft announced its own set of motion controllers made for its burgeoning Windows Mixed Reality platform. As we’ve mentioned in previous reports, the company is calling its new computing platform “mixed reality” because it combines different elements of augmented and virtual reality. The platform itself is baked directly into the Creators Update for Windows 10.
The new motion controllers announced today are set to be bundled with virtual reality headsets made by partners Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo that will go on sale this holiday season. One of the first displays to be paired with the new controllers is the Acer Mixed Reality headset we tried a couple of weeks ago. The Acer headset and controller bundle are aggressively priced at $400 (directly converts to around £320, although no UK pricing has been announced), which is significantly cheaper than the £759 price of the HTC Vive bundle and £600 price of Oculus Rift bundle.
At first glance, the controllers look like a strange hybrid between the HTC Vive and Oculus Touch motion controllers we tried last year. The Microsoft motion controllers are wireless, feature a thumbstick and touchpad, and also have a ring at the end to help with spatial tracking accuracy. The controllers notably do not require external sensors because they’ll be built directly into any compatible headsets.
The motion controllers are a critical addition for Microsoft if they want people to take the new platform seriously. Until now, all of the demonstrations of new Windows Mixed Reality headsets have always required an Xbox controller.
One final important thing to note is that the controllers won’t work with HoloLens, according to a CNET report. This shouldn’t affect many people at all since the HoloLens is still only a developer kit and is more focused on enterprise than gaming anyway. The Hololens also comes with its own gesture-tracking features built directly into the headset, so it doesn’t really need controllers like this anyways.
It seems Microsoft’s strategy will be to undercut the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift in terms of price this holiday season — and now it finally has the controllers to make it a fair fight.
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