What's Next for Windows 10

All the latest details on the next major update to Windows 10.

Paint 3D in Windows 10 Creators Update.
Paint 3D

The sequel to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is headed your way in the spring of 2017, and it's called the Creators Update. This time around Microsoft is making a big bet that what you need in your life is more 3D for art creation, virtual reality, and mobile 3D image capture.

There are also some changes for gamers that we won't cover here, but for you non-gamers out there the big deal (at least that we know of) is 3D. This is partly because Microsoft recently released its HoloLens augmented reality headset to enterprises, and also due to the rising popularity of virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift.

Let's dive in to talk about what's coming to Windows 10 devices this spring.

What 3D means for PCs

Before we go on let's be clear on what we mean by 3D. We're not talking about wearing special glasses to watch objects pop out of the screen as you'd expect on a 3D TV or movie. 3D for Windows is about working with 3D images on a 2D display like you'd see in a modern video game.

The screen you're looking at is still projecting a 2D image, but you can manipulate 3D content on that screen as though it were in 3D space. If you had a 3D image of a mushroom, for example, you could start with a profile view and then move the image to see the very top or bottom of the mushroom.

The exception to this will be when we talk about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). These technologies create 3D digital spaces or objects that are closer to a physical three-dimensional reality.

Painting in 3D

For years, Microsoft Paint has been a major part of Windows. It's probably the first app where you learned to do basic operations like paste a screenshot or crop a photo. In 2017, Paint will get a major overhaul and transform into a 3D-friendly workspace.

With Paint 3D you'll be able to create and manipulate 3D images, as well as 2D images like you do now. Microsoft envisions this as a program where you can create "3D memories" from photos or work on 3D images that would be helpful for a school or business project.

An example Microsoft gave was taking a 2D photo of kids at the beach. With Paint 3D you'll be able to extract those kids from the photo leaving only the background of sun and sea. Then you could put a 3D sandcastle in front of the background, maybe add a 3D cloud, and finally return the 2D kids so they are sitting in the middle of the sandcastle.

The end result is a mash-up of 2D and 3D objects to create a novelty image you can share with friends on Facebook, email, and so on.

Getting 3D images

To use 3D images in Paint, you'll first need to get images built for 3D. There will be two primary ways to do this. The first is a new website called Remix 3D where people can share 3D images with each other--and even share 3D items they've created in the game Minecraft.

The other method will be a smartphone app called Windows 3D Capture. All you have to do is point your phone's camera at something that you want to turn into a 3D image, and then slowly move around the object as the camera takes a photo from all three dimensions. Then you can use the new 3D capture in Paint.

Microsoft has yet to provide any information about when this app will debut, and which smartphone platforms it will be on. From the sounds of it, however, Windows 3D Capture will be available for Windows 10 Mobile, Android, and iOS.

Virtual Reality

A number of Windows PC makers are planning to introduce virtual reality headsets this spring in time for the Creators Update. These new headsets will have starting prices at $300, which is well below the pricing of advanced gaming headsets like the $600 Oculus Rift.

The idea is to make VR available to more people than just gamers. We doubt these headsets will be able to play games the way the Rift or HTC Vive can since Microsoft didn't talk about VR gaming at all during its Creators Update announcement. Instead, this is about non-gaming virtual reality experience such as a virtual tour program imported from the HoloLens called HoloTour. 

Microsoft says the new VR headsets will work with "affordable laptops and PCs" instead of the super-powered PCs gaming VR headsets require.

HoloLens and Augmented Reality

Microsoft also has its own headset called the HoloLens, which uses augmented reality instead of VR. What this means is you put the headset on and still see your living room or office. Then the headset projects 3D digital images into the actual room you're in. With AR you could, for example, build a Minecraft castle on the living room rug, or view a 3D car engine floating above the dining table.

In the Creators Update, Microsoft's Edge browser will support 3D images in HoloLens. This could be used to pull images out of the web and bring them in 3D form into your living room. Imagine, for example, going chair shopping online, and being able to pull a chair out of the website to see if it matches your dining area.

It's a cool idea, but it may not affect you right now. Microsoft's HoloLens currently costs about $3,000 and is only available to enterprises and software makers.

My People

There's one last major update in the Creators Update and it has nothing to do with 3D; it's called "My People." This new feature will let you designate about five favorites from your contacts such as your spouse, children, and co-workers. Windows 10 will then highlight these people in various apps like Mail and Photos so you can easily see their messages or share content with them. Your designated people will also be available on the desktop to quickly share files or send messages.

Microsoft hasn't set an official date for the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update, but we'll let you know when they do. Also check back here from time to time for regular updates as we learn more about other new features coming to the Creators Update.