Microsoft will launch a mixed reality version of Windows next year.
The move will bring a 3D holographic version of the platform to Windows 10 users who own a virtual reality headset.
Announcing its plans at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco yesterday, Microsoft said user interface will be available to run on mainstream PCs.
The new Holographic shell desktop UI will enable users to run Windows 10 through a VR headset hooked up to a standard PC, opening up the experience beyond those with high end gaming machines.
Writing in a blog post, Microsoft’s executive vice president for Windows, Terry Myerson, said: ‘Next year, we will be releasing an update to Windows 10, which will enable mainstream PCs to run the Windows Holographic shell and associated mixed reality and universal Windows applications.
‘The Windows Holographic shell enables an entirely new experience for multi-tasking in mixed reality, blending 2D and 3D apps at the same time, while supporting a broad range of 6 degrees of freedom devices.’
Microsoft is working with chip-maker Intel on a specification for mixed reality PCs and head mounted displays, in an effort to open up the market and its platform.
‘Our shared goal is to enable our hardware partners to build a broad range of devices for the mainstream consumer and business markets,’ wrote Myerson.
A promotional video demonstrates how the interface will look, running at 90 frames per second, triple that of most HD televisions.
It shows a woman wearing a headset in a virtual room running a mix of 2D and 3D apps as she checks email, books flights, navigates a diary and takes a virtual tour of the Pantheon in Rome.
Veteran Windows users will also notice the similarity between the virtual dog and Rover, an assistant character in Microsoft’s less than successful Bob software and who later made an appearance in Windows XP.
According to Microsoft, using a ‘six degrees of freedom’ headset, the interface can be manipulated using a point and click Wii-type controller.
The headset in the video is unbranded but it could well be the Washington tech giant’s mixed reality Hololens, or Facebook’s Oculus Rift – which is set to launch in the UK next month – and which runs on Windows 10 devices.
While Hololens began shipping to developers in March at $3,000 a piece, but it remains unclear when a consumer version of the headsets could launch.