Microsoft ends the AR category it created and leaves mixed reality to Apple

HoloLens 2
Image Credit: Microsoft (Image credit: Image Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is saying “adios” to Windows Mixed Reality as the tech giant has plans to deprecate the platform from Windows 11 and Windows 10. 

The shutdown also includes the deprecation of the Mixed Reality Portal app as well as Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR and Steam VR Beta. It’s unknown exactly when the tech will be pulled. The Deprecated Features page on Microsoft’s Learn website states they'll “be removed in a future release of Windows”, but that’s it. To be perfectly honest, the end of Windows Mixed Reality is not a surprising move as it has been a long time coming. As TheVerge points out in their coverage, Microsoft has been “downsizing its VR division” for some time now. 

Alex Kipman, head of the HoloLens team, left the projects after misconduct allegations came out. Plus, Microsoft laid off 10,000 of its employees earlier this year, many of whom worked on virtual reality products. That side of the company hasn’t been doing well for a while now. 

Staying in VR

Despite this, Microsoft is not giving up on virtual reality, focusing on other projects. Microsoft Mesh, for instance, was added to Microsoft Teams back in May 2023. This allows workers to interact with each other in 3D space using personal avatars. Although given the negative response to Mesh, we wouldn’t be surprised if it also bit the dust some day soon.

More recently, select Microsoft Office suite and Xbox Cloud Gaming have made their way to Meta Quest headsets. For the former, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are the only ones available for download. The others, like Outlook, remain missing at the time of this writing. For Xbox Cloud Gaming, do be aware that it is in a beta state. You may run into some performance issues. 

However, in our experience, the app runs quite well. Playing an Xbox game on the headset in an immersive environment was a blast. Using the Quest handsets can make certain titles more difficult since they have a limited array of buttons. We recommend connecting a controller to bypass this. 

Paving the way for others

Even though Microsoft helped create the "mixed reality" concept, other companies are picking up the slack with more traditional VR headsets like the Meta Quest Pro and HTC Vive Pro, both of which feature pass-through vision capabilities that put VR in your real world. But it's Microsoft's old rival Apple that's generating the most excitement with its new Vision Pro mixed-reality headset. The Vision Pro is slated to be the next big thing to hit the VR scene. It sports a pair of micro-OLED displays with each one outputting 4K resolution. Earlier demos reveal you can play over 100 games or watch 3D movies via a floating screen.

And it may be coming out in just a couple of months too.

While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best VR headsets in 2023.

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Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.