Microsoft announced the next big update to Windows 10 at its Surface event today. It's called the Window 10 Creators Update and it'll be available as a free download this spring. As the name suggests, the focus for this update is creativity, with Microsoft grouping its new features into three main categories: 3D, gaming, and (rather broadly) people. Let's break down exactly what that means.
"3D for everyone"
This is the big one. Microsoft says it wants Windows 10 to be a home for not only virtual reality, but also augmented reality and holographic computing — aka the HoloLens. To achieve what Microsoft is describing as its "2D to 3D journey" it's introducing a whole range of new tools that support 3D content.
In an onstage demo, the company showed how someone could take a 3D scan of a sand castle using their phone, upload it to Paint, tweak it, examine it in augmented reality using HoloLens, and then send it to a friend for them to look at in virtual reality. "We want you to move around a 3D world as naturally as you scroll through a document," Microsoft says.
Paint and PowerPoint — but now in 3D
Creating this easy 3D world means bringing 3D support to a number of classic Windows programs. On stage, Microsoft demoed two examples — Paint and PowerPoint — showing how both now come with 3D-object creation and editing.
In Paint 3D, for example, you can create basic 3D shapes, share them via SketchUp or to social networks, or even edit 3D objects you created in Minecraft and then send them to a 3D printer. In PowerPoint you can integrate 3D objects from a 3D clipart library, and then layer in movements (like spinning round a 3D tree) into your presentation. This is only the start, too, with Microsoft promising that 3D will be implemented across its "most popular applications" in the coming year.
Cheap Microsoft VR headsets
Microsoft is also teaming up with a number of tech firms to make accessing VR cheaper. Partners including HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer will be creating new headsets with built-in six-degree-of-freedom head tracking, and with prices that start at $299. The aim, says Microsoft, is to make VR as accessible as possible. There's no point in having so much support for 3D content if your users can't look at it in virtual reality, too. We don't have many details about these headsets at this point, but given that they're standalone devices, we're hoping for a better experience than phone-powered devices like the Samsung Gear VR.
Built-in game broadcasting and tournaments
Whether users want to watch other gamers' broadcasts or set up their own live stream to share with others, they'll be able to do so using game streaming service Beam — which will come built right into the Windows 10 Creators Update. Microsoft says this will make it as painless as possible to create and access streams, and it comes with all sorts of features to let broadcasters interacts with viewers.
For more private gaming sessions, the company also unveiled a new service for creating your own tournaments with friends. Arena on Xbox Live software will handle all the administrative tasks like score tracking and leave users free to play.
Putting people in your task bar
This last feature may sound the least exciting, but it's probably going to be the most useful. In the Windows 10 Creators Update, users will be able to pin icons for a select number of friends and family right to the task bar. You can then drag and drop files to these icons to share them as quickly as possible, and this space will also act as a hub for messaging apps, aggregating communications from programs like Skype and email to make it accessible all in one place. And if you want to, you can even send an emoji-style nudge — it'll appear right on that person's desktop.
And when can you get it?
We're not sure exactly when the Creators Update will be available (Microsoft just said it'll be launching this spring), but users enrolled in the Windows Insiders beta program will be able to download an early build this week.