Microsoft is saying goodbye to Windows Mixed Reality, signaling a big shift in its AR and VR game plans.
This news, tucked away in an update about deprecated Windows features, brings down the curtain on an initiative that began in 2017. Microsoft had big dreams of taking on big shots like HTC and Oculus (which is now a part of Meta), and it jumped in with a new platform that was all about blending digital worlds with reality. With Windows Mixed Reality, Microsoft promised a vision where one could dive into a universe of games, apps, and other AR and VR experiences. Brands like Acer, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, HP, and Samsung were in on it too, rolling out headsets that worked with WMR.
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But, as we know now, Windows Mixed Reality didn’t quite stick the landing in the crowded AR and VR market.
The future of AR and VR at Microsoft
Microsoft announced in December 2023 that Windows Mixed Reality is officially deprecated and will be removed in a future release of Windows. This deprecation includes the Mixed Reality Portal app, Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR, and Steam VR Beta.
But Microsoft isn’t totally bowing out of AR and VR. It’s still betting on the HoloLens 2, especially for business use. This high-end AR headset even got a boost with a free upgrade to Windows 11 and some other updates. There have been bumps along the way, however, like the departure of HoloLens chief Alex Kipman, and a wave of job cuts hitting about 10,000 people, many of whom worked on Microsoft’s VR projects. Yet, Microsoft still has some interesting irons in the fire. Take the Microsoft Mesh app, for example, which will soon let co-workers meet in a virtual space without a headset.
Plus, there’s a partnership with Meta. If you’ve got a Quest, you can jump into Word, Excel, and PowerPoint right in VR. There’s access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, too, for Quest users.
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What does all this mean for you?
Well on the one hand, Microsoft stepping away from Windows Mixed Reality means we’ve got fewer options to pick from in the AR and VR world. But, on the other hand, it’s a sign that mixed reality is growing, moving beyond the initial concept of headsets and gaming. We’re starting to see AR and VR pop up in our work lives and in ways we might not have thought of before. Just look at Apple’s Vision Pro headset.
Microsoft is still finding its place in a mixed reality world that’s always changing. It’s a reminder that tech is always on the move, and there’s always something new around the corner.
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