There are a number of big technology companies involved in the virtual reality (VR) space right now. While Oculus VR is spearheading the movement with the Oculus Rift, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) is also making waves with its Project Morpheus VR headset and Samsung is soon expected to enter the market with its rumoured Oculus VR collaboration. That said, we’re still yet to see any signs of interest from one of the videogame industry’s major players, Microsoft.
While the company is yet to reveal any kind of work in VR, new patents uncovered by VRFocus do provide some hints as to what it may have planned down the line. Namely, a set of four patents reveal a new headset focused on augmented reality (AR) that could also be used for ‘virtual reality and enhanced vision applications’ along with a means of input to interact with ‘virtual objects’ and the display technology to view them.
The first and arguably most significant of these patents is for ‘a peripheral display for use with a near-eye display device’. You may recall various patent reports earlier in the year that revealed a set of AR glasses from the company, thought to be somewhat similar to Google’s Glass headset. This patent details a ‘near-eye support structure’ that suggests this patent could be for the same device, though crucially states that: “The peripheral display may be used for augmented reality, virtual reality and enhanced vision applications.” An image showing an outline of the device can be seen below.
Moving on from there, two other patents detail interacting with virtual objects in an AR environment. The first, published in April 2014, details the tracking of a user’s hand as it applies forces to these objects, allowing them to react realistically. The other, published earlier this month, specifically details an accessory which can be used to the same effect. The accessory is designed to ‘cooperate’ with a display device ‘to determine a scene map of the virtual environment, the display device and hand held object being registered in the scene map’. A diagram, also shown below, shows a user using the accessory to interact with a virtual monster.
The fourth and final patent, published as recently as last week, details an ‘auto-stereoscopic’ display for AR. The technology can reportedly display virtual images at a calculated distance in an environment. When you combine all of these patents, an outline of a new AR system with possible VR applications can be seen, though if it will all amount to anything is yet to be seen.
The mention of VR is indeed intriguing, though the patents primarily refer to AR. Could these patents lay the foundation of a new peripheral for Microsoft’s Xbox One, as Project Morpheus is to SCE’s PlayStation 4? VRFocus will continue to follow the company closely, providing any new updates on the technology.