Microsoft has enabled a long promised feature for their games console the Xbox One, the ability to stream games into a VR environment via a headset attached to a PC.
Microsoft has been making significant strides to strengthen its offerings and stance on immersive technologies. The company has made several significant announcements regarding Windows 10, partnerships with Valve and more recently revealing Windows will host several new affordable 3rd party virtual reality headsets in 2017.
More significantly, last year it revealed that its next games console, codenamed ‘Scorpio’ will be built with hardware designed to supply “high fidelity virtual reality” to a console audience and will arrive some time in 2017. Scorpio is of course Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s recent ‘mid-cycle’ console refresh with the PS4 Pro, a souped up version of its predecessor which delivers near 4k and HDR gaming as well as promised (albeit ill-defined) visual enhancements to games built for the company’s recently launched PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset.
In the mean time, another Microsoft promise which may have been forgotten by many, has now been kept – enabling the feature for Xbox One games console owners to stream Xbox One games to their PCs and to play those games inside a PC attached VR headset. The announcement originally formed part of a special media event which saw the reveal of Oculus’ consumer Rift VR headset as well as the recently launched Oculus Touch motion controllers. Forming part of a deal to ship Xbox One wireless gamepads with every Rift, a short demonstration was made during the presentation depicting a gamer donning a headset and enjoying Forza Motorsport projected onto a large, virtual screen whilst that user was wearing an Oculus Rift. As such it should be clear this functionality is only available for Oculus Rift and (of course) Xbox One owners. This feature was enabled yesterday.
The ability to play Xbox One games on a screen larger then many could afford in real life is an interesting idea, and indeed we’ve written before how effective this technique can be in practice, but it of course should not be confused with ‘real VR’. To put it less glibly, the immersion benefits for playing games this way will probably be largely minimal for most – specially those used to VR experiences in general.
Those who wish to try it (and we’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below), can grab a new app from Oculus Home. The system offers multiple environments in which to view games as well as adjustable viewpoints.
Nevertheless, as much as this new feature will be regarded by many in the VR community as a gimmick, it does once again affirm Microsoft’s commitment to the immersive gaming space and provides a stopgap to more a more concerted, conclusive step into the VR space with Xbox Scorpio and the expansion of Windows powered VR headsets next year.