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Microsoft developing multi-player virtual reality

Mon 12 Oct 2015

Microsoft VR Comradre

Microsoft researchers are developing ways to engage multiple people in virtual reality experiences.

Computer scientists led by VR expert Jaron Lanier, are exploring the multi-play technology in a project titled Comradre (pronounced ‘comradery’). The headsets are made using a smartphone, a connected laptop and external sensors which trace the wearer’s head movements.

A video, shot through one of the Comradre headsets, depicts various applications of the new platform tested by student interns. Experiments include highlighting physical interactions with virtual effects, matching real-life obstacles with virtual objects and animations, and testing VR play for children.

Another example saw student Andrzej Banburski of the Perimeter Institute For Advanced Physics working on an animated tool for visualising mathematical equations. Kishore Rathinavel also develops this idea to detect sound waves and display them in mixed reality. The researcher’s video shows a demo of this application, mapping a flute piece in virtual reality.

In January Microsoft announced its first commercial VR project, HoloLens, which was showcased last week at the launch of Windows 10. A demonstration saw players try out the experimental game ‘Project X-Ray’. Gamers reported that Microsoft had been misleading in its marketing of the product, noting that holograms do not appear in 360°, but rather that the field of vision is so small that virtual objects only appear right in the centre of the wearer’s view.

Jeremy Bailson of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab explained that the challenge with multi-player VR is tracking multiple movements. He commented that virtual reality would become an important part of future communications, collaboration and accessing and processing information.

Virtual reality is currently an extremely popular research field for top tech firms, with Facebook, Google and Sony all battling to develop headsets and related software products. The startup Magic Leap has also entered the scene, raising over $500mn (approx. £325mn) in funding to explore the use of holographic technology in augmented reality.


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