Microsoft has partnered with a lot of companies to bring Mixed Reality headsets to the market, and in doing so, also bring the cost of high-end VR experiences down to a more consumer-friendly level. They have recently announced something to further show their dedication with the creation of Mixed Reality Capture Studios. This new studio is located in San Francisco and includes an academy for the community of creators and developers of MR content to learn and grow as developers while also crafting new content.
While many companies can throw money at technology to create new versions of it, it is exceedingly rare to see a company – let alone one as large as Microsoft, show such a high level of dedication to something. Creating an actual studio is a completely different animal than merely making new technology – and even that isn’t an easy feat. The goal of the new studio is to give creators a hub to create what they have always wanted to – and it sits at the center of the company’s new Reactor area in San Francisco. This one large area houses both the Mixed Reality Academy and the Capture Studio.
Having a centralized hub allows everyone to know each other to some degree, learn alongside one another, and gain a familiarity with the people they work with the technology they’ll work on. The location was chosen due to the bay area’s high level of creative thinkers – a group that the company feels will enable mixed reality to flourish. One thing they didn’t announce was making this area easy for anyone to access. A virtual learning ceter for those outside of the bay area would be fantastic, and a way to grow mixed reality’s developer base quickly.
The company’s existing capture studio at their hometown of Redmond has been used to create content with musicians, actors, and athletes – with Buzz Aldrin and George Takei being a couple of notables. By having the bay area studio, this will give them a greater level of access to celebrities as well – and minimize their travel costs as well. By having two studios, the company hopes to make high-quality holographic captures accessible for MR creators anywhere and ensure high-quality content comes out for the devices.
Microsoft will also be partnering with studios in London, England to create local branches of Mixed Reality Capture Studios in another part of the world- and it seems like that’s something they will continue to do for as long as posible. This kind of dedication shows that the company truly believes there is a huge future in MR and VR content and should ensure that new content is made for years to come. With existing consumer-level VR, developers have been left hoping projects do well or find ways to turn their IPs into more traditional properties to recoup costs.
Lucky’s Tale was originally a huge selling point for the Oculus Rift – but it didn’t take off like it needed, so its developers at Playful leveraged its value as a gaming IP and will release a sequel to it on PCs and the Xbox One without a VR headset requirement to test the waters. If they can show that transitioning an IP that gained traction as a VR-only property can work as a non-VR one, then maybe other companies will do the same. There are many great VR headset games that are mere offshoots of existing ones – so this idea is basically just that practice being done, but in reverse. Fallout 4 VR and Doom VR are the two biggest examples of it – but not the only ones. Those will be exceptions to the rule in that the VR modes are so extensive that they will be charging for the games again at new prices, but games like Redout and Project Cars have seen free updates for PC users that gave them VR content and the same holds true for Superhot VR.
This is an interesting time for the VR/MR space because developers and end users are in a bit of limbo right now. The first generation of high-level devices are still out there and viable – but the MR headsets show that the tech can be revamped and made better. It’s not only cheaper, but with less setup and hassle. However, because of the high cost of the initial headsets and development costs incurred, companies want to keep making content on them so that users don’t feel ripped off for making a fairly big purchase and then having very little to show for it a couple of years later. By allowing content creation to be done using their tools, Microsoft makes things more appealing for developers – which should in turn ensure a longer shelf life for already-created VR content as well as original content crafted with the mixed reality experience in mind.
The Academy itself can be transformative for MR development, with a variety of programs and workshops designed to make developers better – and even a hackathon to put people under the gun and test their mettle in real-time. Every move Microsoft is making now with MR seems to be designed to ensure that it is a viable platform for years to come – but it’s also a fairly large risk. If users don’t wind up adopting the technology, then it could be a large sunk cost for the company and one that thankfully, they can absorb without a major issue. The academy itself should foster new ideas as well, but one would have to wonder if developers who learn there would then be able to use that experience and put it on a non-MR headset. The curriculum seems to focus heavily on holograms – which wouldn’t work outside of MR, but surely there will be some crossover knowledge that could be used for non-MR headsets.
The next three years are going to be huge for VR. The technology has been trending for a few years now, but the honeymoon period is over. Now, it’s time for AAA-level gaming experiences on it to become the norm and for its non-gaming applications to go to the next level. Mixed reality certainly has the potential to do so, with its use of holograms completely changing how the tech can be delivered and the reduce headset cost should be a big deal for consumers. Right now, it’s good to see Microsoft invest a lot of resources into it because it builds up confidence in not only the tech itself, but also in it having a longer lifespan.