Unnamed sources recently said that Microsoft plans to reveal its Oculus Rift competitor during E3 2015 in June followed by a possible retail release sometime in the second half of 2015. The news arrives by way of DigiTimes, which is quoting sources in the upstream supply chain. These sources say that Microsoft's hardware team, the same one responsible for the Surface tablets, is handling the VR headset.
The news shouldn't be surprising; we've known that Microsoft is working on an Oculus Rift/Project Morpheus competitor for some time now. An E3 2015 reveal makes sense given that the Rift and Morpheus solutions are expected to go retail sometime in 2015. Microsoft is essentially a latecomer to the VR retail realm.
Back in August 2013, the USPTO published a Microsoft patent for a VR headset that could be used outside. The patent described a number of head-mounted display devices that may include OLED displays, voice interaction, eye-tracking, facial recognition technology, three accelerometers and three gyroscopes to track the head movement. The patent also described using transparent or partially transparent displays.
According to the patent, the headset would include outward-facing sensors that detect the user's environment, locates other users in the surrounding area, and tracks hand gestures. Users can also see information broadcasted by other Microsoft HMD wearers, including the user's alias, games they're playing and so on. The headset will supposedly be compatible with not only the Xbox One, but tablets, smartphones and Windows 8.1-based PCs.
Rival Sony revealed its visor-style VR headset for the PlayStation 4 back in March (pdf). The specifications include a 90 degree field of view, a 960 x 1080 resolution per eye, an accelerometer and gyroscope, HDMI and USB ports, and a panel size of 5 inches. Morpheus works with the PlayStation Camera, which helps the HMD track the user's head. PlayStation Move also works with the headset, allowing users to wield a sword or other virtual handheld objects.
Meanwhile, Oculus VR was purchased by Facebook back in March 2014. "We're culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step,” the company's blog said. Essentially, Facebook has the funds to make Oculus Rift a big hit on the market.
Still, Microsoft has an extraordinary product to build in order to compete with rivals Sony and Oculus VR. This is why an E3 2015 reveal is so important for Microsoft -- to reel in possible customers before they decide to dump funds into the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus. The headset will also need enough individuality to push sales of the Xbox One.
The unnamed sources also mentioned that Microsoft is currently working on a Google Glass competitor. Sony is too, which we recently mentioned.
Although we fully expect that Microsoft will unveil its HMD during the E3 2015 press conference, you have to take the DigiTimes report with a grain of salt. Everything regarding Microsoft is mere rumor and speculation until the products are actually announced.