Microsoft held their Windows Mixed Reality event last week, and besides the presentation which has been publicly posted, also had a 1:1 Q&A session with journalists attending the event.
There Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft and the researcher behind Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset, revealed some interesting titbits regarding the platform and its roadmap.
Most interesting was the fact the Microsoft’s Cliff House, the home base where you materialise when you put on your Windows Mixed Reality headset, will one day become social.
This would mean that other Windows 10 users in WMR will be able to visit your home and that you will be able to have interactions there, somewhat similar to the old PlayStation Home.
Kipman confirmed this feature will however only arrive in later versions of Windows 10, saying:
Maybe not in this current release of Windows, but Windows has a path of releases ahead of us and making the Cliff House social is part of our plan.
He suggested Altspace, the Second Life-like virtual reality meeting place which Microsoft purchased, would help form the foundation of that experience, saying:
To the question of whether people will be able to visit your Cliff House—over time, we’ll evolve the experiences. One can imagine that in the world of tomorrow, the minute you join any of these immersive experiences you’re going to be able to be with the people you love, the people you work with, and the people you’re trying to communicate with. Altspace is a very good foundation for that world of the future. But again, I have nothing more than to be excited about the fact that we acquired them. We love the community of Altspace and Altspace is going nowhere.
Alex Kipman saw communication in VR as the killer feature of WMR, and explained that this was why they purchased Altspace, saying:
For me the killer app for mixed reality is Altspace communication, the communication fabric of being able to be with all the people you love in a family setting. Or as an employer, to be able to have my people be around the world in a physically present way without actually having to be physically present. The ability this provides—I mean, why are you here today? Think about that. You all have, I hope, put a premium on face-to-face interaction, reading each other’s facial expressions. There’s more to this experience than doing it over Skype, text messages, email. We believe in the power of being present. The little con is that you have to be in the same place at the same time. Mixed reality gives you the superpower to transcend time and space, and now all of a sudden, in the very near future, you’ll be able to have communication that’s this immersive, this present, but maybe I’m standing on the surface of Mars. That’s the killer experience. It’s communication. You see that our acquisition today is part of the strategy of making sure that we start building a communication fabric created for mixed reality.
He confirmed that for now, the Altspace experience would remain the same, including the cross-platform element.
He also touched on the lack of VR with the Xbox One X, once again saying they did not think a wired experience was appropriate for the living room, saying:
When you think about mixed reality or virtual reality in the living room—the living room is a communal space. You need wires to be in the right place. We just don’t believe, right now, that the state of the art of what virtual reality can do in the living room – from the headsets to the wires to the state of wireless – is such that it’s actually an enjoyable experience.
He also hinted that Microsoft will support Windows Mixed Reality on phones from other companies, saying:
I said it at the beginning: this thing is going to transcend time, space, and devices. I don’t know what you have in your pocket, but I’m going to bet it’s not a Windows phone. But what is the value that’s going to come to you from that experience? Let’s be people first. Let’s be customers first. With the Microsoft graph, you should expect that our experiences will start transcending devices.
Hopefully, these features will arrive sooner rather than later, as it creates a network effect around the platform, and would incentivise current users of the platform to encourage their friends and family to also buy into the experience.