Microsoft patent points to head-mounted, laser-based display technology

Microsoft logoAnyone who gets their hopes up every time a tech company files a new patent for some revolutionary dream device will get their heart broken more often than not. That said, we're unreasonably excited that a new Microsoft patent for a "laser-scanning virtual image display" could actually point to plans for the company to jump into the world of virtual reality gaming.

Microsoft first filed the patent back in 2010 but it was just recently published by the US patent office (and unearthed by Patent Bolt). The document describes both a helmet and a set of eyeglasses (which "could be at least partially transparent"), using two laser-based, "dilation optic" displays to project what appears as a 21-inch diagonal, 16:9 ratio image viewed at arms length. This should theoretically help with the eye-crossing problem of focusing on displays held too close to the eye. By displaying slightly different images to each eye, the projected image could appear in stereoscopic 3D to the viewer.

The only reference to video games in the patent is a throwaway sentence referring to "applications ranging from video gaming to aviation." But there's some circumstantial evidence that big name game developers may already be testing the possibilities of head-mounted gaming. As noted by gaming site Brain Lazy, last month id software's John Carmack tweeted about running "a prototype 1920x1200x2 display set from eMagin" that was "completely distortion free across the entire view." Epic Games' Cliff Bleszinski followed up with a "me too" tweet that he was working with similar hardware. Carmack later tweeted a photo of two micro-displays embedded in ski goggles "for better immersion," and id's Matt Hooper tweeted a picture of Creative Director Tim Willits actually trying them out.

Microsoft patent points to head-mounted, laser-based display technology

Of course it's a pretty big leap to get from these tweets to actual, active game development for a patented device Microsoft might not even be making. Even if these developers are seriously looking at head-mounted gaming, Sony has its own head-mounted display about ready to hit store shelves. Companies are trying to revive the idea for virtual reality PC gaming as well.

But there's some reason to believe Microsoft would benefit more than other platform holders from adding a head-mounted display to its gaming hardware. One of the most limiting factors of playing with motion control technology like the Kinect is that you always have to be facing the screen to know what's going on. This leads to a lot of games where you awkwardly shuffle from side to side rather than actually turning away from the screen, as you would if you were really moving naturally. With a good head-mounted display, this problem could become a thing of the past—as long as your coffee table is well out of the way.

Again, the existence of a patent does not mean Microsoft is actively making this kind of head-mounted display. It doesn't mean the company is even thinking about making it. But we can't help but think about the possibility of Microsoft making a big, "here's something completely different" splash with such a device sometime in the future.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: computer games, Microsoft, technologies

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