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Microsoft bringing AR to Windows 10 via View Mixed Reality

Any Windows 10 computer with a camera will be able to overlay 3D objects into real-world images for a taste of mixed (or augmented) reality.

Microsoft wants people to experience augmented and mixed reality, both via affordable headsets and the more expensive Hololens. But, there's a catch: not everyone has these headsets.

That's where Microsoft's announcement of View Mixed Reality gets interesting. It's Microsoft's attempt to get 3D objects into AR without a headset, using a regular Windows computer with a basic RGB camera. It's coming to Windows 10 later this fall.

Microsoft's built-in AR joins what will undoubtedly be a wave of AR-on-a-flat-screen tech, including Google Tango and Facebook's phone-based AR initiatives. I got to try View Mixed Reality briefly at Microsoft's education event Tuesday in New York. I wasn't allowed to take photos.

The demo was simple: a 3D penguin skeleton created in Microsoft's Paint 3D app was superimposed on the real world, much like Snapchat and other phone-based AR apps. The penguin skeleton sort of sat on the floor of the classroom in front of me, or on a shelf (pinching shrunk the skeleton down so it would fit properly).

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Placing the Mars rover in reality for size comparison.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The "mixed reality" effect places the object into the real world, but it's unclear how well it's tracked. I posed for a photo in front of the invisible (to me) giant penguin skeleton. Since View Mixed Reality isn't using a more advanced depth-sensing camera like Google Tango, the effect looked a little jittery. But it worked.

View Mixed Reality will be a one-button-tap effect in Paint 3D when it debuts in the fall, and a tool Microsoft aims to use as a stand-in for more advanced VR headsets or the Hololens.

It's a quick lens to view your creations in the "real" world. It also shows that Microsoft, like others, are aware not everyone's going to get a VR or Hololens headset on their faces anytime soon.

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