Virtual reality
Oculus Rift VR headset will go on sale to consumers in 2016IBTimes UK

Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus has purchased Surreal Vision, a British firm which recreates real-world environments virtually, in real time.

Combining its technology with Oculus and its Rift VR headset will bring about a future where users of virtual reality headsets can move around the real world and interact with real-world objects from within VR.

This could lead to experiences similar to those offered by the Microsoft HoloLens prototype, where a virtual reality interface is laid over the user's real-world environment, blending atoms with pixels more closely than before. The company was bought for an undisclosed amount.

Based near Watford in southern England, the Surreal Vision team said is it "overhauling state-of-the-art 3D scene reconstruction algorithms to provide a rich, up-to-date model of everything in the environment including people and their interactions with each other.

"We're developing breakthrough techniques to capture, interpret, manage, analyse and finally reproject in real-time a model of reality back to the user in a way that feels real, creating a new, mixed reality that brings together virtual and real worlds."

Developers are already working to blend these two worlds. Using a VR headset like the Oculus Rift and the Leap Motion sensor, it is possible to integrate the wearer's hands and arms into what they see through the virtual reality headset, which has a screen and offers a real view of the outside world. Instead, the sensor records their arms and plays their movements back into the headset in real-time.

Surreal Vision has the ultimate goal of creating technologies which will "lead to VR and AR [augmented reality] systems that can be used in any condition, day or night, indoors or outdoors. They will open the door to true telepresence, where people can visit anyone, anywhere."

Bought by Facebook for $2bn (£1.3bn) in 2014, Oculus is almost ready to put its Rift VR headset on sale to the general public, having until now made it available exclusively for software and video game developers to experiment with.

The Rift will be released to consumers in the first quarter of 2016, around the same time as Sony's competing Project Morpheus. HTC's Valve-supported Vive is targeting a late 2015 release while Samsung's Gear VR headset (which uses a Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge as its screen) will be released in the US "by the end of this summer".

Here you can read our run-down of all the major VR players.