Following Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus VR for $US2 billion, Microsoft has purchased assets related to augmented reality and wearable computing.
Last week TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden reported that the Redmond, Wash.-based company had paid $US150 million to acquire the rights to technology from the Osterhout Design Group (ODG) — a company that develops wearable display devices for the military and government organisations.
The government will continue to be ODG’s primary focus, Ralph Osterhaut, founder and head of the company, said to TechCrunch. The terms of the transaction aren’t clear, but ODG will remain a separate company. ODG holds 81 patents related to wearable technology, and Osterhout told TechCrunch that it holds inventions that could be relatable for everyday consumers.
“The real focus are features that are applicable in the consumer space, too,” Osterhout said.
ODG’s patents describe technology pertaining to devices that could compete with Google Glass. ODG’s inventions, however, appear to emphasise augmented reality more than Google Glass. ODG’s patent US8477425 B2, for example, describes a pair of smart glasses optimised for augmented reality and 3D interaction.
Google’s head-mounted display doesn’t actually project images onto the environment around you to create augmented reality. Instead, it display images in a tiny prism-shaped display above your eye to avoid distraction.
The acquisition doesn’t necessarily guarantee that Microsoft is working on a wearable display of its own, but it provides further evidence that the company is at least considering it.
Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft is developing a virtual reality wearable headset for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. In this context, it seems more likely that Microsoft’s purported device would compete with Sony’s recently announced “Project Morpheus” headset for its PlayStation gaming console.