On March 28, 2014, news broke that Microsoft had purchased a series of patents from Osterhout Design Group that focused on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. This comes on the heals of Sony revealing Project Morpheus, their VR headset for the PlayStation 4, and the history making $2 billion Facebook deal where they purchased Oculus VR, the technology start-up developing the Oculus Rift VR headset.
The Microsoft VR deal was actually executed on January 17, 2014, but word didn’t get out publicly until after the news had spread about Facebook’s pricy leap into VR had already caught fire on social media.
One of the patents with the application title “VIDEO DISPLAY MODIFICATION BASED ON SENSOR INPUT FOR A SEE-THROUGH NEAR-TO-EYE DISPLAY” has a number of uses. In addition to a video display that can allow the user to see through the glasses while simultaneously viewing video content, it also includes 3D motion sensor and is optimized for 3D AR.
Augmented Reality (AR) is the visualization of the real world, with portions added, interacted with, changed, or manipulated (IE: Augmented) by artificial elements, primarily via interactive video, animation, or other computer generated graphics. The tech is currently being innovated by numerous companies who use mobile and handheld devices with touch sensitive screens to create interactive AR experiences. Examples of this can be found now via the AR game cards that come in-pack with the Nintendo 3DS, and the DAQRI app for iOS/Android devices that touts DAQRI’s “4D experiences.”
Although the patent does include a workflow for not only how games will be played, it also includes how the video game content will be delivered. The tech all works similarly to how we currently use our smartphones. The headset includes ear buds, with a pop-up screen to notify you of incoming calls, capabilities for video chat, detailed guides on buildings, art, and it even has a built in GPS that gives driving directions. One of the more unusual tech features included is the ability to see though dust, fog, and smoke thanks to a Short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) sensors that “pick up individual photons and convert light in the SWIR spectrum to electrical signals.”
The series of patents that Microsoft purchased, are far from consumer ready. While the headgear is designed to combine full 3D though glasses-like headgear, it currently only exists in the patents, designs, and some early prototypes. As with most early patents, the headgear is not likely to release for quite a while, if at all, and will likely be altered from the layout and features of the original patent designs.