A Simple Setup Process
Microsoft boasts that it offers the “quickest, easiest setup available” of any desktop VR system, claiming you should have your Windows MR headset up and running in 10 minutes or less. After trying this for ourselves, we agree. The Windows MR setup process is quick and (mostly) painless.
Microsoft’s WMR platform doesn’t require external cameras like the Oculus Rift, and it doesn’t have external base stations like Valve’s SteamVR Tracking technology. Instead, this is the first platform to offer inside-out tracking, which uses embedded cameras to track your surroundings. As a result, there are far fewer steps in the WMR setup process.
First, ensure that your PC is up to date with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. If you don’t already have this build installed, you can manually apply it with Microsoft's Update Assistant. (opens in new tab)
With Windows fully updated, launch the Mixed Reality Portal. You can open the software manually from the Start menu, or plug in the headset, which launches the software automatically. Click on Get Started, and you’ll receive a prompt to read the terms of service and agree to its stipulations. After pressing “I Agree,” the software runs a compatibility check on your system.
The next step requires a Windows MR headset. If the headset isn’t hooked up yet, you’ll see a prompt to connect it. Windows should detect the HMD and install its drivers automatically. Then click Next to pair the controllers.
To turn on the WMR controllers, press and hold the Windows button for two seconds. The LEDs on each controller’s halo should light up and blink slowly. You should also feel a slight vibration when the controller powers on. Pull the battery cover off and press the Bluetooth pairing button next to the batteries.
If the Bluetooth signal is strong enough, the controller should pair in a couple of seconds. If your computer’s Bluetooth controller shares the antenna from your motherboard’s Wi-Fi connection, make sure the external antenna is installed or you’ll experience tracking problems.
Room-Scale or Seated
Microsoft offers room-scale tracking (the recommended configuration), facilitating seated, standing, and room-scale VR experiences. Like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Microsoft’s room-scale platform employs a boundary system to help keep you within a safe tracking area. If you select the room-scale option, you must clear a space and then trace its area so that your computer understands where your safe zone is located. Rather than tracing with a controller, you carry the headset around to trace this safe zone.
Microsoft indicates that you need at least a 5x7-foot space for room-scale tracking. We’re not sure what the maximum play area is, but our Acer WMR Headset's tether is shorter than the one on our HTC Vive, which means it won't cover as much ground.
Cortana Can Help
Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant is deeply integrated into the Windows Mixed Reality platform. With Cortana, you can use your voice to dictate many tasks within the virtual environment, such as launching and closing applications, moving and resizing windows, adjusting or muting the volume, and taking snapshots or recordings.
To use Cortana, you must have a wired headset attached to the HMD's audio jack. Microsoft does not support Bluetooth headsets in WMR. To activate Cortana, say “Hey Cortana” like you would on your desktop PC or Surface device. For a full list of commands, refer to Microsoft’s support documentation (opens in new tab).
MORE: Virtual Reality Basics