Microsoft’s creating a Google Cardboard rival dubbed VR Kit

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft Has its Own Cardboard VR Headset.

It’s been a rough quarter for Microsoft. New Delhi: Aiming to replicate Google’s Cardboard virtual reality project, Microsoft is reportedly working on its own VR kit for its Windows devices.

Reports coming out of Microsoft Russian Federation claim that a new VR kit strikingly similar to the Google Cardboard is being provided to developers at a hackathon later this month and it apparently isn’t related to the HoloLens in any way. The company took a $7.5 billion write-down in its latest quarterly earning report today after conceding earlier this month that its acquisition of Nokia’s handset business wasn’t going to turn it into a viable competitor in the smartphone market. Spotted on a website promoting a hackathon in Russia, the software giant is inviting developers to participate in the October 17 event to build VR apps for its devices.

What will be interesting is whether Microsoft officially announces the kit at the event, and if it will detail pricing or release information for the general public and other developers. It is also going to award participants in categories including Best VR-Game, Best Educational VR-project, and Best Corporate VR-project for ‘successful’ ideas.

The Microsoft VR Kit, as shown in the image, hints at the Google Cardboard-like box supporting a Lumia device and delivering the VR experience to the wearer. The Nokia boondoggle—former CEO Steve Ballmer’s parting gift to Nadella—led to what Bloomberg called the company’s biggest quarterly loss ever. Understandably, then, Nadella chose to focus on the future instead of that dismal moment now officially in its past during his earnings call with analysts today. Augmented and mixed reality are already in Microsoft’s sights, with their highly anticipated Hololens on track for enterprise testing in the next year. He promised a more focused approach not just to mobile but to the rest of Microsoft as well. “Business process, collaboration, communications, these category boundaries are things I believe are going to change,” he said.

However, augmented reality usually requires the use of hands and fingers for input, which is hard to realize fully with a device that’s held to the face. Nadella talked up the acquisition of field service software company FieldOne; the launch of the Cortana Analytics Suite; and the company’s plans to reach $20 billion in cloud computing revenue in 2018. It doesn’t appear that the company is yet making the VR Kit available for all to build or at least purchase online, but perhaps it may do so in the future. And of course Windows 10 is just days away from launch. “While the PC ecosystem has been under pressure recently, I do believe that Windows 10 will broaden our economic opportunities and return Windows to growth,” Nadella said.

Microsoft is holding a press event on October 6, where it’s expected to announce new Lumia smartphones, the Surface Pro 4 tablet, and a new Microsoft Band wearable. The new mass-market Oculus Rift VR headset due out in 2016 will work natively on Microsoft’s Xbox One, and last week, Oculus announced that Minecraft (which is owned by Microsoft) will be coming to the Oculus Rift next year as well. The Microsoft event set for October 17, for its part, challenges virtual reality programmers to develop in three areas: games, education, and corporate applications, according to tech news site Thurrott.

Why this matters: While Microsoft is betting big on augmented reality with HoloLens, the company’s been quiet on the VR front despite growing interest from Google, Sony, Valve, Facebook, and Samsung. He speculates that since it appears to be so similar to Cardboard that there’s a good chance Microsoft will offer up schematics to folks who want to piece together their own Kit at home. Microsoft’s ambition with the HoloLens is clear, and if VR Kit can dominate the market for low-cost artificial reality like Cardboard has with virtual reality, they could be major players when VR and AR truly hit the marketplace. If their take handles stereoscopics the same way Cardboard does, you may be able to get away with modifying the Cardboard design so that it fits your Windows phone’s profile and rear-facing camera location. Microsoft’s historic cash cow Office is meanwhile making a smooth transition to to the cross-platform mobile and cloud world with 150 million downloads of Office Mobile for iOS and Android.

Nadella said that 50,000 new small and medium businesses adopt Office 365 per month and that the service is already in use at four out of five of the Fortune 500. Ultimately, it seems that if Microsoft can keep convincing the world that it’s a new company with new priorities and new products worth buying, the worst could be over for a company with a starkly uncertain future when Nadella took the helm. You can never have enough great apps, though, so you can bet that Microsoft will keep on pushing — offering freebies and cash to whoever can deliver the next big VR hit.

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