There was a sudden spark in the world of virtual reality (VR) this week when reports circulated of an error message appearing on an Xbox Series X that seemed to indicate that VR support could be on the cards. No sooner had the rumour mill kicked into high gear Microsoft quickly debunked the news saying that the information was ‘inaccurate’ and a ‘localisation bug’. One thing made perfectly clear from all this is the fact that even if Microsoft still has no outward intention of Xbox supporting VR, we’d all still love it to happen.
So if you managed to somehow miss the furore a couple of days ago, IGN Italy reported on an error message one of its journalists noticed when installing the new Xbox Wireless Headset which read: “The VR headset needs to be updated.” Naturally, this was instantly flagged because Microsoft has made no mention of VR support in any way, yet there it was “VR headset”. However, the term ‘headset’ can be used for both VR devices and for headphones which can get a little confusing.
With VR really starting to kick-off thanks to Oculus Quest 2 and details about a new PlayStation VR surfacing, it seemed too good to be true that an Xbox VR head-mounted display (HMD) could be in the works. And that bubble was quickly popped by Microsoft, releasing a statement saying: “The description in this error message is inaccurate due to a localization bug. Console VR is not our priority right now.”
So that quickly put the fire out on that piece of short-lived excitement. It still begs the question as to why the Redmond-based company continually refuses to show any interest in console VR when most are still surprised it doesn’t already exist. Sure, the naysayers will point towards it still being niche or even going so far to claim that the technology is dead – which it definitely isn’t – but the lack of VR on Xbox still comes across as a big miss.
But with WMR in one hand and Xbox in the other surely they could’ve worked, especially on the new Xbox Series X? At the moment the focus is more on trying to get enough of the new consoles built than worrying about VR implementation, maybe once the Xbox Series base is established VR might become an option? Having the feature would certainly be another sales point.
Xbox really could do with considering its main rival PlayStation is very much invested in VR. Since launching in 2016 PlayStation VR easily became the top headset, selling millions of units whilst attracting AAA exclusives like Resident Evil 7 Biohazard.March 2021 has seen Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) whip up a storm confirming a new headset is on the way followed by images of the “orb” controller with lots of fancy haptic features. The promise of a VR device for PlayStation 5 might not be its main sales feature as customers scramble to get their hands on one, however, this does mean PlayStation 5 has something the Xbox Series X definitely doesn’t.
And quite frankly we all love a bit of competition, it’s healthy and spurs innovation. Microsoft has VR headsets, it bought AltspaceVR, and it bought VR-capable studios like inXile Entertainment and let’s not even get into augmented reality (AR). Plus, just imagine if Xbox’s cloud-streaming service was piped into a standalone headset rather than a mobile phone…oh the possibilities. Hopefully, one day this will be made a reality and Facebook would have some proper competition.
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Solaris: Offworld Combat is coming to PSVR this June with a physical release from Perp Games. According to a First Contact Entertainment representative, the digital version is planned to release a month earlier in May.
Perp Games on Twitter: “We’re not finished just yet. Solaris Offworld Combat is the next game to be getting a physical box release. Coming in June to global markets! Will you be buying it? https://t.co/5sphrqsh10” / Twitter
Solaris: Offworld Combat on PSVR
Originally, Solaris was coming to PSVR late last year around the same time as the Quest and PC VR version of the game but got delayed. Now, it’s slated for release in just a couple of months.
The latest VR shooter from First Contact Entertainment (creators of Firewall Zero Hour) is a sci-fi competitive VR shooter that feels a bit like Quake in VR due to its speed and intense arena levels. It’s a very breezy, fast-paced game that’s accessible and easy to quickly jump in and out of. The closest comparison is probably Hyper Dash.
Soalris is a notable release because other than Firewall Zero Hour, there really haven’t been many options for shooter fans on PSVR. Alvo is coming soon too, but the headset is on its last legs at this point.
The PS Aim Controller continues to be one of the best things about the PSVR platform, so I’m all for seeing more games support it, but it’s a shame games like this didn’t hit PSVR earlier in its life cycle. Hopefully PSVR 2 on PS5 is backwards compatible and it can give late-life cycle games like this one new life when it releases.
Solaris is coming to PSVR very soon with a planned digital release in May and physical release from Perp Games in June. For more on this game make sure and read our Solaris: Offworld Combat review and stay tuned for all the latest in VR.
The VR fitness genre is still relatively new, all things considered. Even though the space is still somewhat niche, it’s absolutely growing at a fast pace as seen by the number of games and players that continue to spring up. How did we get to this point though, you might ask?
Microsoft won a large US Army contract to supply advanced AR headsets for frontline soldiers, based on the HoloLens platform.
The US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip infantry with AR helmets for situational awareness and convenient display of sensor outputs.
The contract is worth up to $21.88 billion over 5-10 years. While the order has been widely reported as 120,000 units, a US Army statement to Breaking Defence suggests that is the maximum, not a fixed quantity.
Early evaluation units based on HoloLens 2
In 2018 Microsoft won the $480 million evaluation contract for just over 2500 units, based on HoloLens 2 with some modifications and an extra sensor.
The current, ruggedized, upgraded IVAS
The evaluation found the hardware not rugged enough for military use, and identified problems with the sensors at night. Since then the hardware has been significantly upgraded. It’s more ruggedized and houses many more sensors.
The field of view has been significantly increased from roughly 40°x30° to 80°x40°. That’s significantly wider than any other see-through AR headset on the market.
Reported use cases for the headset include:
overlaying icons on friendly units, objectives, threats, and points of interest
built-in night vision & thermal view modes
live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) personal drone
simulated weapons & enemies for training exercises
scanning nearby people for high temperature (COVID-19)
facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army is also testing integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see-through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them. That means on dismounting they’ll be situationally aware.
Some Microsoft employees have protested providing technology for the military, but that’s unlikely to have any effect given the enormous potential value of the contract.
IVAS is still in the late testing & evaluation stage, and the scale of deployment will depend on future budgets. But if things go to plan, frontline soldiers could be equipped with these game-changing AR capabilities by the end of the decade.