Microsoft wants to set the agenda for the future of computing, with a new set of devices and a new Windows update released this week. For the tech giant, that future means augmented and virtual reality — whether we're all ready for it or not.
Microsoft has bet hard on augmented and virtual reality, which it collectively refers to as “mixed reality” as it continues to shake off its old, fusty image.
Microsoft showed off a slate of virtual-reality headsets, made by Windows partners such as Samsung and Dell, that offer a mix of gaming and more practical features like Skype conference calling. Both Surface Book 2 laptops — a basic 13.5-inch and a beefed-up 15-inch model — support augmented and virtual reality, even in their compact form, with Windows' new “Fall Creators Update.”
And, yes, PowerPoint got its own infusion of new tech, with the ability to embed 3-D objects — for use in augmented reality or in a standard presentation — that can you can rotate and annotate in your slides.
Whether many people will use these features and devices is yet to be determined. Adoption of augmented- and virtual-reality technology has been slow for a variety of reasons, including high cost, the fact that they are still fairly new and that their purpose has yet to find a solid footing in the everyday life of consumers.
Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group, said that he does not expect every Windows user to buy a virtual-reality headset, even though they now have the support for it. With mixed reality in particular, Microsoft is looking to specific communities — interior designers, architects, those who want a telepresence in meetings, engineers who need their hands free — to make their case.
“The places where we are on the most bleeding edge, they always start with small audiences,” he said. But, he said, there is more room to explore the applications of these technologies for everyone.
And these technologies may have even stronger applications in another core Microsoft audience: businesses, which can use them for training and remote meetings, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights.