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Microsoft Is Going All In on Virtual and Augmented Reality

October 4, 2017

A flurry of of announcements made yesterday serve to highlight the company’s desire to make a success of so-called mixed reality technologies. At an event in San Francisco, Microsoft showed off a series of new AR and VR headsets that will be available later this month. They include, according to TechCrunch, an impressive new premium device by Samsung that will cost $500.

Elsewhere, Microsoft is upping its experience ante. A big part of that is a virtual Cliff House, which Gizmodo makes sound rather fun:

I could see myself blogging from Microsoft’s VR world, my Twitter feed above me, a small blog window down on my lap like a laptop, and huge space for Photoshop directly in front of me ... Got to edit a two-hour flick? Instead of spending thousands on 40-inch monitors, I could build a custom video editing rig right into the Cliff House with nothing more than a flick of my wrist. Want to switch things up and watch a movie? I could teleport instantly to a darkened room with a 300-inch equivalent display in front of me.

It announced more content, too. The Verge reports, for instance, that Microsoft will roll out a VR version of the popular video game Halo and immersive coverage of the 2018 winter Olympics.

And it also wants to make the whole thing sociable: Variety reports that Microsoft has also acquired the social virtual reality platform AltspaceVR. That’s a huge turnaround for AltspaceVR, which announced in July that it planned to shutter its operations due to a lack of funding. But in its acquisition, Microsoft gets its hands on technology that could, as we’ve argued in the past, make time spent in VR a far less isolating experience.

All of which is to say that Microsoft isn’t messing around in virtual reality. The question now is, can it really make the technology catch on?

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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