Last month leading up to E3 we learned that Microsoft had come to a partnership with independent VR developers Oculus Rift who had been bought out by Facebook, to keep from falling behind in the VR game. Microsoft has already had limited if not dwindling success with Kinect 2.0, but they had already announced their own device in the form of HoloLens.
Microsoft claimed that by partnering with Oculus Rift they would be able to focus more time and effort on HoloLens. It might seem like a smart move in terms of staying in the “game”, but at what cost? They’ve already had a lukewarm reception with Kinect, and then they went off to create and work on a new device, only to partner up with another device. Granted HoloLens is almost an extension of Kinect with the use of Augmented Reality over Virtual Reality which is what Oculus Rift specializes in.
After this past E3, many in the industry and consumers alike were raving about the HoloLens demo. Building Minecraft worlds on your table seemed very neat, but there was more to the demonstration than met the eye. Reports of how the cameras worked to show us, and how it controlled was not entirely as transparent as we thought. And while the device itself is still very intriguing, we’re years ahead of actually getting to use it. As of now it makes a nice Minecraft demo and nothing else.
This mirrors much of how Sony is handling their virtual headset, Morpheus. Initially gaining steam and interest, a few years later and there’s yet to be any killer apps for the device that really interest the consumers beyond a few mock demos. A huge chunk of cash is being devoted to VR these days, but unlike Sony who is paying out of pocket to develop Morpheus, Microsoft only has to worry about HoloLens. Oculus Rift sits comfortably from the confines of Facebook’s buy out. Microsoft doesn’t have much to lose there other than to not develop another Kinect flop.
In this regard, Microsoft can rest easy knowing that there’s a full team working on the Oculus Rift to apply it to the variety of current and future games on the market, while they get to focus on creating a killer app for their proprietary device. It seems like a win-win. But there’s still a lot at stake.
3D TVs were the talk of the town back when they were introduced, but it seems the hype has died down since then. Televisions are still a bit pricey but are comparable to a normal TV of the same size, sans the 3D technology. Microsoft, and everyone else invested in VR, have to work hard to make sure virtual reality isn’t just another passing fad but show us it’s here to stay.
And whether it’s with Oculus Rift or HoloLens, right now the options are limited, and the stakes are high.