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Articles - December 17, 2019

Did Microsoft Just Leak Its VR Plans?

Microsoft has not expressed interest in joining the VR wars anytime soon but a recent patent filing might be evidence that Bill Gates’ outfit was just being coy with its future plans.

The Sun reports that a virtual reality headset attached to the upcoming next-gen Xbox might have been revealed by none other than Microsoft themselves after an internet user revealed a patent for a VR floor mat.

The Sun further reports that the pad’s functionality is described as some kind of environmental limitation device that keeps players situated within a virtual space and prevents them from hurtling into a real-world wall. How would the pad work?

Apparently there are vibrating devices in the pad as well as through the implementation of in-device warnings. Combined this would keep users from hurting themselves, a problem that many people in the VR world acknowledge but that few companies really pay that much attention to at the end of the day.

Of course, as The Sun points out, none of this means that Microsoft is bringing anything definitive to the next Xbox in the way of VR gaming.

Nonetheless, it does make you wonder why they would pioneer such a device if the company had no stake in VR whatsoever. That said, we do know (and have reported on it pretty extensively) that Microsoft is not shying away from augmented reality (AR) at all and even has its own project in the works with a huge IP (Minecraft) attached to it.

Perhaps the pad is intended for some kind of AR use instead of VR? Again, only half explains what we have going on here. AR uses the real world so it might seem quite obvious that users would be able to keep themselves from getting hurt.

Given that, an immersive game like Minecraft might need such a device to keep users aware of their location within physical space. The way we see it is that Microsoft could be developing a virtual “play space” for AR and VR users that would see the application in a range of games and scenarios. If that is the case, the hopes for a next-gen Xbox VR headset dim even further.

Even so, it seems that Microsoft has a dedicated leg in the game and isn’t going to sit by on the sidelines. As we’ve reported in the past, a lot of VR seems to be a wait-and-see game with some of the biggest devs and manufacturers out there waiting for things to get just a bit bigger before they join the fray. Meanwhile, firms like Sony and Oculus are happy to dominate the space and the former’s plans on leveraging VR to great effect with the PS5 have to weigh on Microsoft somewhat.

Could the PS5’s VR plans finally be applying pressure to Microsoft in a real way? Probably not, but it is fun to imagine.

Of course, if things change we will bring you the word of that immediately but, as far as our take goes, this pad is probably something for their AR projects and VR being an added benefit.

But only time will tell. We definitely don’t think it is evidence of Microsoft prepping a headset for the Xbox, sadly.

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