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"I don't think VR is a now thing" - Spencer

Head of Xbox suggests success for new tech is not imminent, acknowledges interest in Minecraft VR

Microsoft head of Xbox Phil Spencer isn't dismissing virtual reality; he just doesn't think the technology's time has arrived yet. In the latest issue of Edge Magazine (as reported by Edge sister site Games Radar), Spencer explained why Microsoft is sitting on the VR sidelines for now, even as other big players in the gaming world are staking their claim to the space.

"Right now, it's just been about technologies and things that I think we need to do on Xbox One to make the experience better, and that's where our focus has been," Spencer said. "And I don't think VR is a now thing. I'm not saying it's five years from now, but it's not really a now now thing. Valve's got their VR thing, which I think is great; Samsung has GearVR, too... Funnily enough, they are very interested in Minecraft and how it could work in those VR spaces."

And even though Microsoft has unveiled its entry into augmented reality with HoloLens, Spencer suggested that tech's significance for the Xbox business isn't much of "a now thing," either.

"Well, we haven't announced it as an Xbox accessory," Spencer said. "But it sits within one team, and we have the conversations. Right now, we want to focus on a standalone, untethered device and make sure that we can prove out that scenario. That's where we started, and that's what we announced in January: the first fully self-contained headset.

"The tethered scenarios around VR I think are interesting, but we were going for something different. Not being tethered to either a PC, Xbox or a phone as part of the solution was one of our design challenges for HoloLens, and we did that. Now we can say, 'Well, OK, if I do have an Xbox or a PC, what are those scenarios?' We haven't publicly talked about what those are, but you can imagine, as we continue to drive and get success with HoloLens, those scenarios will become obvious and developers will take advantage of them."

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Latest comments (9)

Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.5 years ago
Is he suggesting AR will take off before VR? Most think its more challenging.
There are a lot of comments and predictions about AR vs VR but it may turn out to be slightly greyer than that. Let me explain.
A very wide FOV has a big wow factor to begin with but once you are immersed you narrow in on the points of interest. For instance I find I'm only distracted by what's around a small TV screen for the first minute or so. After that I get involved if its a good story and don't notice. This may be linked with the fact that we only have about 1.5 degrees of acuity? (Seeing the real world in your peripheral also limits nausea). Because of this I have a feeling that AR glasses may turn out to be pretty good for some VR as well.
On the flip-side untethered VR may gain widespread appeal because you can put your (next gen) phone in a face-mounted holder, plus it will be a while before AR glasses replace phones. I don't believe anyone can confidently predict exactly how this will all roll out.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
I think what he's saying is that AR is what the masses are going to actualy want

I a, a gigantic 3D and VR enthusiast, all my life.

What we found with 3D, is that people bitched about the glasses. They yelled about how they hated the sitter glasses, and wanted the polarized ones from the theater.

But what they really wanted wasn't that. In the theatre, people sit quietly with one point of focus. In the home environment, they found the glasses to be a barrier to socialization they associate with the couch. That's why AR is going to be a much bigger thing outside of the enthusiast space.

Ito about putting grandma in the easy chair, which is already very easy to do with some tracking markers. And with Kinect's abilities to map a room that are in HoloLens, , might not even need that
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.5 years ago
Yes, I'm not disagreeing with him but would like to know what he thinks the "now now thing" is that will make Hololens a success. Ideally you could buy one cheap set of high tech glasses that will work for AR, VR, films and maybe even as electronic reading glasses. I'm hopeful we will get there eventually and think all these devices are essential steps on the way.
I'm also not certain that VR on the sofa is optimal, except for special cases like the odd film or when your team is in the cup final and you don't care what others think. Mobile phones are social tools that can be used in antisocial ways (like in a crowded carriage) and I see VR as the same. Its not antisocial if it can connect you to everyone else on the planet.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
They thought sports in 3D was going to be huge. So much so that Aespn ramped up a channel

Sports are the poster child. No one cares without glasses free in operation. I don't even think the World Cup highlight disc did well.

HoloLens is not a consumer product right now. It's for B2B and telepresence I'll be very suprised if there is a working, affordable consumer model with robust applications in 2018., and any integration withXbox will, likely be limited to Smartglass style stuff.
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.5 years ago
I could see staff dreaming up business reasons to justify buying Hololens if they saw a leisure use for it too. Without that I think they may be disappointed by the demand for it. Most of what you get from a HUD can be achieved by glancing at your phone.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
It's not a HUDs thing. Honestly the biggest thing I saw was the customer support angle, where the tech was showing them how to fix a pipe. It's about CAD, teleconferencing etc. consumer use is secondary at this time
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.5 years ago
I do genuinely hope they've found some job functions that can safely be enhanced with their glasses. My problem is I try to visualise them and keep hitting barriers. They couldn't be used for navigation while driving, where a blue screen really could mean death. Therefore any safety critical situation may be out. I would think teleconferencing will still need external cameras and those would show everyone wearing Hololenses. As well as being fun I tend towards entertainment because I think its lower hanging fruit. Doesn't matter that much if it goes wrong. CAD and design could work.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
I still don't see VR as a now thing either. I still see it more as a 3D thing from last gen because that never took off either. VR finally has the financial backing it needs to become relevant but that still doesn't guarantee success. Phil is right to hold off on developing for VR until it can be proven to be successful.
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.5 years ago
Well you could also say Sony got stung by 3D and yet they're leading the charge into VR. On an experiential level VR blows 3D out of the water and anyone who has tried the best demos knows that it's unstoppable. Whatever Microsoft may say publicly they would be crazy not to be working flat out on it behind the scenes. Hololens and Kinect suggest that they are.
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