Virtual Reality is hot these days. We know that Oculus is nearing a consumer launch for its Rift VR visor, Samsung has quasi-launched its Gear VR device, and at GDC last spring Sony announced Project Morpheus, its VR visor for the Playstation 4. Since then Sony has shown Morpheus at E3 and other invents, including the Playstation Experience just a couple weeks ago.
Last March at the GDC Microsoft's David Dennis told Ars Technica that the company wasn't ready to get into VR just yet:
"At this point, everything you're seeing out there is just prototypes and development stuff," Dennis noted regarding projects like Rift and Morpheus. "I think for us, it will be interesting to see how consumers respond and what experiences developers are able to deliver."
Microsoft didn't have anything VR-related to show at E3 in June or at any of the big gaming shows to follow.
Now it may be that Microsoft have drunk the VR Kool-Aid™. TechRadar says (without citing any sources) that Microsoft has a VR visor of its own and that dev kits are already in the hands of developers.
TechRadar also mentions a report at DigiTimes that says the Microsoft VR visor will be introduced at E3 and will go into mass production in 2015.
My experience with DigiTimes is that their rumors are pretty hit or miss and I find it unlikely Microsoft will go from initial reveal to consumer product in the six months or so between E3 and the end of 2015, but the TechRadar piece seems credible. With so much buzz around VR right now I think Microsoft has to have something in the works, just in case the technology does take off. They can't be playing catch-up if the Rift and Project Morpheus are big hits.
I'm still very interested to see if VR becomes as big a deal as enthusiasts seem to assume it will be. Polygon's Ben Kuchera wrote an interesting piece a few weeks ago titled Gear VR fixes one of virtual reality's most annoying problems. The titular problems, in Kuchera's words:
The problem is that when you're lost inside of virtual reality, there is no easy way for someone to get you out. Loud noises are mostly blocked out by the headphones, and having someone physically touch you can be startling.
My wife has grown frustrated with the fact that I'm more less unreachable while inside these games. That's good in some ways — being alone with my thoughts is part of the point — but being completely cut off is also a problem if one of the kids starts crying or some other emergency happens.
Hopefully Oculus, Sony and Microsoft (if they are in fact developing a visor) will all read this post and offer a solution in the same way Samsung has, because what Kuchera describes is one of my concerns. I think VR will cause a certain amount of domestic strain in families, though I suppose one could've said the same thing back whenever headphones were invented.
I am still predicting that in the first year following a widely available VR headset, someone's home will be burgled while they are in it, lost in a VR world and oblivious to the fact that they are being robbed!