Microsoft took the covers off of its incredible HoloLens prototype back in January – a futuristic headset that blurs the lines between the real and the virtual world and one that, of course, has huge implications for gaming.
But it's not quite the Xbox One VR headset that we've been waiting for. Xbox boss Phil Spencer said at the launch: "I love the virtual reality stuff that's out there, Morpheus, Oculus, I think they're doing great work and I've said it over and over, I just love that our industry continues to push innovation forward.
“I've always applauded Sony and Oculus and what they've created. I think this is something different."
The lines between HoloLens and a dedicated Xbox headset were blurred at GDC 2015 though, with Spencer saying "gaming and entertainment is going to be critical" to the HoloLens experience and revealing first party developers are already working on new gaming experiences.
Microsoft is also involved with the consumer edition Oculus Rift, with the company confirming that Xbox One games will be streamable on the VR headset.
Hmmm. Let's look into this a bit more....
Back in March 2014 the Wall Street Journal's Ian Sherr wrote that, “Microsoft has developed 3D virtual-reality devices, and it has filed at least one patent for it so far".
“The software company has been developing the technology concurrently with a project known as 'Fortaleza,' or 'fortress' in Portuguese," he said. "The effort has been discussed as an attempt at creating a suite of experiences unique to Microsoft's Xbox products, people who have been privy to discussions say."
The company also filed a patent titled: “Multiplayer gaming with head-mounted display," in early 2012.
However, these patents point more towards an augmented reality experience – which mixes the real world with virtual elements – rather than a full VR experience, and it's likely much of Fortaleza has ended up as HoloLens and Microsoft's, Windows 10 based, Holographic platform.
Sherr also wrote that: “At least one iteration of Microsoft's technology was based on a concept known as 'augmented reality,' which often superimposes animation on a display along with images of the real world."
Back in March 2014, Microsoft put its money where its mouth is with a $150m acquisition of smart glasses specialist Osterhout Design Group. Unlike most big mergers, ODG will remain a separate company from Microsoft, and it seems that the company was after patents and IP for the augmented reality tech.
When you compare this acquisition with the patents filed in 2012, the signs again point to augmented reality headsets rather than a full attempt at VR. This could mean that you could wear specs for extra information when playing games, from HUD in driving games, expanding the action beyond the four corners of your TV set. Just as with the HoloLens Minecraft example.
This is something that Microsoft experimented with before HoloLens, of course, with its Illumiroom project. This morphed into the now-titled Microsoft RoomAlive, which the company showed off using a proof of concept demo video in October 2014.
Following the big HoloLens reveal, Xbox boss Phil Spencer was keen to point out that the new headset was a standalone device, and not one utilising the power of a console or PC. However, he hinted that there was room for an entirely different Xbox-driven experience.
"To me, there's not a successful consumer electronics device on the planet where gaming is not a primary form of kind of app category on the thing", he told Polygon. "I think HoloLens will work out the same way. I think gaming will be important.
"I think you'll see that it's kind of different than VR," he added. "VR is, in my mind, kind of a completely immersive block out the rest of the world."
Oculus Rift compatibility
Oculus recently revealed not only will the consumer edition Rift come boxed with an Xbox One control pad - but that Xbox One games will stream on the system as well.
However, it's not the full-on, immersive, Halo action or 360-degree Forza that you're hoping for, it's simply your Xbox One games streamed to a virtual theatre within the headset.
However, it's still exciting that Microsoft is officially on board with Oculus. The fact that the system is Windows 10 compatible, and that Xbox streaming is already being explored can only be a good thing.
Xbox One VR headset to launch in 2015?
In December 2014, TechRadar, ran a report suggesting that Xbox One headset development kits were already doing the rounds. The report predicted that an Xbox VR headset could get an official launch at E3 2015 in June.
Source: XBOX ONE VR HEADSET RUMOURS AND NEWS