It is looking more likely that Microsoft might be releasing a new VR platform in the near future. Rumours have been pointing at virtual reality for the company's next-generation system. Adding fuel to the speculation was a recent report referencing the patent documents for accessories related to the aforementioned technology. Now, it is combining both VR and AR applications coming up with the DreamWalker project – bringing a fully immersive experience outdoors.
So far, most virtual reality and augmented reality offerings limit the interaction to a confined space. In contrast, Microsoft DreamWalker concept allows the user to take the system out on a stroll. GeekWire reports that it will make its public debut at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 201, in New Orleans later this week.
The Redmond-based tech outfit has been tinkering around with AR for a while now and is likewise offering the HoloLens 2. It's second-generation mixed reality smartglasses is reportedly in use by several companies already. According to the documentation, "Provided with a real-world destination, DreamWalker finds a similar path in a pre-authored VR environment and guides the user while real walking the virtual world."
As with any other VR headset, its biggest challenge is coming up with safety measures for keeping the user away from hazards, thereby avoiding injuries. Since there are more obstacles outdoors, a complex array of sensors and programming allow the system to guide its users safely to their destination. It apparently achieves this by using GPS locations, RGB-D imaging possibly from the Kinect, and inside-out-tracking.
Microsoft has been testing the prototype within its campus and the results appear promising. Participants were instructed to walk around with the gear as they were treated to a virtual representation of Manhattan. In that simulated world, there were animated elements such as people, cars and objects.
DreamWalker is not the only project Microsoft is showcasing at the event. Sources point out innovative eye-tracking technology and a haptic feedback controller also slated to make an appearance. Rumours are indicating the company is working on VR for the Xbox Scarlett to rival the next-generation PlayStation VR that is likewise speculated to launch alongside the Sony PS5.