Microsoft’s ‘View Mixed Reality’ Offers AR-Like Features For Windows PCs

Microsoft is making big moves to bring the Windows operating system into the immersive technology age. The company is preparing to bring forth its Windows Mixed Reality platform, which brings elements of AR and VR (hence, “mixed”) together and into the same ecosystem as your desktop PC and laptop.

With the upcoming Fall Creators update, Microsoft is bringing Windows into the realm of three dimensions. And you’ll be able to experience some of the new features even if you don’t have a Windows MR or HoloLens headset. If you’re a member of the Windows Insider Preview Program, the latest build of the Windows 10 Insider Preview includes a new feature called View Mixed Reality, which lets you view mixed reality content with any Windows 10 computer that has a camera attached to it and an IMU inside.

It’s not dissimilar to what it’s like using Tango; you have a device that’s equipped with certain hardware and software, and you can see AR objects and animations through the device’s display.

Microsoft didn’t release many details about the View Mixed Reality feature, but here’s what we know: The company said that View Mixed Reality allows you to embed 3D objects into images captured from “any camera.” We’re not sure if that feature extends to video, or if it’s limited to still photos, but we suspect it would support both. Microsoft’s View Mixed Reality feature uses unannounced positional tracking technology, but if we had to guess, we’d say it uses SLAM Scan technology along with the device’s IMU to infer depth information and camera orientation.In any case, Microsoft recommends the Surface.

The current iteration of Microsoft’s View Mixed Reality feature supports 3D models created in Paint 3D. If you’re not the artistic type, you can find a variety of 3D objects on Remix3D.com that would also work. It’s unclear whether View Mixed Reality would support files created with other 3D modeling apps, but we can’t imagine why Microsoft wouldn’t extend support for third-party applications.

We’re not sure how much practical use the View Mixed Reality feature would offer to most Windows users, but this feature could be a lifesaver for developers who are creating applications for the upcoming Windows Mixed Reality platform and need an easy way to preview or demo some of their creations. (Windows MR developer kits are available from HP and Acer already, but we would expect that using View Mixed Reality for rapid prototyping ideas would be more convenient than lugging out the headset for a few seconds of use. And because View Mixed Reality works with so many devices–and you probably have one–you could work on the road more easily, too. 

The View Mixed Reality feature should be part of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform that’s set to launch as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Microsoft hasn’t yet announced the release date for the upcoming OS overhaul.