Microsoft wants to make 3-D modeling easy for everyone with its latest Windows update. (Courtesy of Microsoft)
The idea for Microsoft's latest upgrade to Windows 10 is to make some intimidating things, such as 3-D modeling, easy enough that any person could find a use for it.
The company announced Wednesday that the new “Creators Update” for Windows 10 — its third major upgrade since the system launched in 2015 — adds a function that lets users turn their smartphones into 3-D scanners, then import those 3-D images into their computers. It also adds support for virtual-reality and mixed-reality headsets.
Although both features seem pretty far out of the mainstream, it’s all part of an attempt to cement Windows 10 as a platform for creation as it looks introduce technology that it thinks will one day be on everyone's devices.
Creative users are often more closely associated with Apple’s Macs, while the PC has traditionally been thought of as a productivity machine. (Those “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials may be from Apple's perspective, but they had some truth to them.) But Microsoft has recently been courting artists, architects, musicians, gamers and designers with its latest software and hardware — including its 28-inch touch screen Surface Studio PC, which the company said Wednesday it will sell in three additional markets this April, including China.
Panos Panay, corporate vice president for Surface Computing, holds the new Microsoft Surface Studio computer at a live event in the Manhattan borough of New York on Oct. 26, 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
The new Windows update underscores this push. “The Creators Update is borne out of the idea that we want to empower the ability to create in all of us,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for devices and services.
For example, Medhi said, parents may take a photo to remember a sand castle they build with their kids on vacation. Now, they could walk around the sand castle with their phones to create a 3-D replica model, which they could then print and give to their child as a memento of that vacation.
Scanning a couch in a store, he said, could help you figure out the best placement for it in your home. Or users could take a 360-degree video of some memorable spot on their vacations, and use a virtual or mixed reality headset (such as Microsoft's own HoloLens) to share that with others.
Although Mehdi acknowledges that not every Windows user may be dying to create their own 3-D models or virtual reality videos quite yet, he believes that adding these features helps Microsoft pave the way for the day when we all will.
Looking ahead, Medhi said that creativity will continue to be a focus for future Windows upgrades, which Microsoft is now doing with smaller and more regular updates rather than large releases every couple of years.
The Creators Update will be released as a free Windows 10 upgrade on April 11. All Windows 10 users will get a notification about the update over the coming weeks. Those interested in getting the update as soon as possible can download it directly from Microsoft’s website once it is released.
Microsoft is using the update to embrace other emerging trends as well, such as the growth of live-streaming for video games. A new feature will allow Windows 10 users to easily live-stream games from their PCs, and chat with their viewers.
It is also updating its Edge browser, which, despite being included with Windows 10, still lags behind Google’s Chrome in popularity among Windows 10 users. Mehdi said new features, such security improvements, the ability to group tabs and some behind-the-scenes power improvements to make Edge easier on battery life could help persuade Windows users to switch.