Everyone’s doing it. The Virtual Reality focus at this week’s Game Developer’s Conference may have been on Sony’s Project Morpheus and the Oculus Rift, but we can rest assured that no major technology company is ignoring a product with the potential to change so much. IGN caught up with Microsoft Studio’s boss Phil Spencer, and he said that Microsoft is indeed working with VR. He didn’t confirm a commercial product, but there’s definitely internal research going on.
“I think the technology is really interesting, and it’s definitely something we’ve been playing with for quite a while,” he said. He doesn’t think that “every experience requires goggles on my head,” but admitted to the value of “being able to completely audibly and visually immerse players.”
Chances are, considering the timing of this little hint and the fact that we’re getting it from Phil Spencer, that Microsoft is currently concerned with VR as an Xbox property, but the potential goes far beyond gaming. One hopes that the disparate other parts of the technology behemoth that is Microsoft are aware of whatever work is being done, because Microsoft is uniquely poised, given the strength of its other businesses, to capitalize on both the gaming and non-gaming aspects of VR. The enterprise space, for example, which Microsoft still dominates, could benefit from conference calls, training, virtual tours and more. Something as simple as Skype could move closer to face-to-face conversation. All of those things may be a while off, but Oculus and Sony have already proven to the public how far VR has come in the last few years. There’s no telling how far along Microsoft is in this research, but committing to VR could put it back ahead of the curve.
Spencer told The Verge that not only would 360-degree worlds immerse gamers, they could also benefit players who don’t have the physical space for giant displays. The enormous support for the Oculus Rift Kickstarter showed that gamers are getting more excited about VR than anything else. This year’s GDC reinforced that impression. This is one situation where the games industry is out ahead of the general market — with technology too exciting for anyone to discount.