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Monday
Dec042017

An immersive experience with Windows Mixed Reality 

By Sonya Davidson

It was an unlikely gathering, or so you would think, of women ready to explore what's new in mixed reality. When Microsoft approached me to see if I was interested in a personalize experience of the new Windows Mixed Reality with friends, I was curious. I also decided to go against the expected when they mentioned I could invite a few friends or family members along for the fun. 

You would probably expect me to bring my family of boys. Nah, they're too predictable. I already know they would be interested. So, I decided to bring a few other ladies to see just what would happen. After all, we all know that moms are the ones who are figuring out gifts this time of year. It may come as a surprise that each woman I asked to joined me JUMPED at the opportunity to see the latest technology. With varying knowledge of augmented reality and virtual reality, there was definitely a strong interest in learning more especially when we see potential of spending more quality time WITH our friends and families. 

So, where to start? First plug into your PC (Windows 10 needed). We used on the ACER Swift 3 laptop. Set up seems pretty easy. We explored a few options of just what we could do with Windows Mixed Reality. We learned that although Microsoft themselves aren't the makers of the headsets, there are lots options on the market. Microsoft and Intel are what powers the headsets and you'll have access to a wide range of really cool Windows VR apps. Intel is in the heart of creating these kind of experiences. With the recent release of the 8th Gen Intel Core we're seeing power delivered like never before. Faster, better, stronger, more fluid...you get the picture. We played around with the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset  with Motion Controllers. Easily adjustable and not heavy to wear at all and we became quickly comfortable wearing them that we had almost forgot we had the headsets on. 

Photo credit: Libby Roach

What is mixed reality anyway? In this case, it's the blend of the virual reality world and use of controllers, so you're still using gestures and movements. The controllers are paired via Bluetooth with the headset to interact with each other. With one controller in each hand you can use the triggers and buttons to perform functions. Don't worry, you quickly learn what does what.

With this new headset comfortable and securily in place and motion controllers in hand, we found ourselves in a virtual home (one that's way tidier than our reality) with the ability to move around 360 degrees. Just like a real house there are rooms and walls. You can look up, down, and all around. I was given a general area of how far I could physically go without crashing through the window and using the carpet under my feet as a guideline. My guess is around 10 ft of clear space is needed. Holograms are located throughout the visual space that allows the user to launch into their favourite apps, games, and even streaming services. 

Photo credit: Libby Roach

Then what? Of course you can immerse yourself in some incredible games like Halo and step right into the virtual world. Sure. Or you can solve celestial puzzles to unlock animal spirits in Luna and create miniature musical worlds and even launch into other of your favourite apps, but we were in awe when we played MR: Move out of the Room -- an Escape Room experience with many layers involved in getting out of the trapped room. With the headset we were able to walk around the room, move objects off the walls and shelves and out of the way or toss on the floor to find clues, secret codes, keys and eventually escape. With the motion controllers we were able to virtually grab items like flashlights and carry them with us. 

One of the ladies went exploring with the Mixed Reality Headset and stepped right into the landscape of Machu Picchu and uncover hidden secrets through HoloTour. The virtual tour gave her a taste of what travels would be like with realistic vistas and sounds and some views that may not be so easily accessible in real life.  A virtual tour guide also helped in offering fascinating local and historical facts. 

There are always concerns of feeling "woozy" with VR experiences. The key is to ensure the headset is secured at the right eye view and remembering to take breaks from the screen. We would think the "15 minutes and take a break" rule with any screen would apply here as well. I'm probably the most sensitive of the bunch and happy to say I was fine exploring the Escape Room for about a half hour. 

There are tons of Mixed Reality content out there to access including more than 20,000 Windows apps and 360 videos.

 

 

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