Watch Out, Rift And Vive; Microsoft's MR Platform Is Getting 6DoF Motion Controllers

Microsoft finally answered one of the key lingering questions around its mixed reality efforts by announcing that the platform is getting 6DoF motion controllers. This is a major step forward that further pushes the Windows Mixed Reality platform closer to parity (at least in terms of features, if not quality) with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Although when it released the range of specifications for the Windows Mixed Reality HMDs, Microsoft mentioned that the platform would support 3DoF or 6Dof controllers, there was no further information. It of course made sense to include non-gamepad controllers in the spec range, but that was no guarantee that anyone would actually make them.

It would seem that Microsoft assumed the mantle. A representative did indicate that, at least for now, Microsoft is taking the same approach as it has with the HMDs themselves: It’s defining a set of specifications and pushing the OEMs to actually make the things. Whether that’s a temporary or permanent arrangement remains to be seen.

The controllers look reminiscent of the Oculus Touch controllers. You can see that there's a clickable touchpad and a thumbstick on top of each controller, with a single button in between them. There's a Windows button on the handle, just below the touchpad, and there's another button on the inside of the shaft, where your forefinger would probably lie. There's a trigger on the front part of the grip, as well. You can use both controllers together to, for example, to grab and drag to expand or shrink a virtual object.

It remains to be seen whether or not the controllers will ship with every Windows MR HMD. Acer’s will--we know that--but according to Microsoft, the OEMs will make those decisions on their own. Microsoft also told us that the 6DoF controllers will need to be within “sight” of the sensors on the front of the HMD to which they’re connected. Other than that, the controllers are “world scale.” (Technically, so is Acer’s MR headset--so long as it remains tethered to a PC.)

Microsoft made sure to note that the motion controllers require no markers, and that “there is no need to install hardware on the walls around you.” That’s rather an odd clarification; did anyone think the motion controllers would need markers? It would perhaps make more sense, especially given the current VR-only capabilities of the Acer Mixed Reality HMD, to point out that the controllers don’t need any external, outside-in trackers like the Rift and Vive do.

The Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers should, like the HMDs they’ll work with, be on store shelves “this holiday.” It's unclear if they'll be available as a separate purchase from an HMD or not.