Now that it’s dead and gone, many folks talk about the Virtual Boy and how it was the future of gaming, with some even collecting it alongside NES and SNES consoles. Microsoft has taken note, and was recently granted a patent (originally filed in September 2010) for a virtual image display to be used in glasses and a helmet. Since Microsoft seems dead-set on owning your living room (with the Xbox 360’s media capability and Kinect sensor) it would be interesting to see how this plays out.
The idea behind this is the ultimate in privacy and mobility. According to Patentbolt, the display will be able to pair with computers, media players or “other electronic devices,” which means that this is not only going to go with the rumored Xbox 720, but also be a viable display for your PC. The device is also said to be capable of not only a single-image split between the two displays, but will also allow for two separate images to be displayed concurrently in a stereoscopic display – also known as virtual reality. I assume that games in the future will allow for the side-by-side rendering of two different images from slightly different viewpoints in order to allow a true 3D experience in devices such as this.
One of the hurdles of this technology is the physical limitation of the human eye: it cannot focus on an object less than a few centimeters away from the eye, so creating a virtual image via optics is half the battle. The other half is creating hardware that allows for that image to be of a usable resolution and (unlike the Virtual Boy) full spectrum of color. The current design is said to mimic a 20 inch monitor at at arms length.
While I would love to toss on a pair of glasses that connect to my phone for superb Augmented Reality and “bigger” gaming, I suspect this will not be entirely aimed at private gaming, but also as an add-on device (like the “Better with Kinect” experience in games such as Mass Effect 3). By moving the HUD to a separate display, the user will always have their health/ammo/map/etc in front of them, and the entire play screen will be dedicated to the landscape, instead of having all that data crowd your view. That’s what I’d like to see, at least.
Thanks Tyler Harvey!