Just ahead of Microsoft’s media event prior to E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) last week the company filed a trademark for Direct Reality. Given the company’s penchant for relabelling virtual reality as mixed reality, we had hoped that would mean VR would make an appearance at its showcase. That wasn’t the case, but do now know what Direct Reality really is.
Xbox head Phil Spencer outlined exactly what this trademark pertained to during an interview with Giant Bomb last week. He explained that it’s function would be similar to the company’s DirectX APIs, helping developers create software across a range of VR headsets with different features, just as DirectX helps VR work with different GPUs.
You can see the video below. Spencer’s explanation starts around the 14:45 mark:
“I think it’s important as the Windows platform company that we don’t start getting people tied into “Well you bought this [head-mounted display], sorry it’s not going to work with these other things,”” Spencer told Jeff Gerstmann.
“When I buy a great monitor and plug it into my PC I’m not worring whether Windows understands it and some games play on it and some games don’t,” he added. “When I say the multi-year journey that we’re on I think this is all part of that. Windows as a platform has to support any HMD natively that you plug in and we’ve been getting good feedback from the Oculus team and Valve about things we need to do with Windows 10.”
Addressing fragmentation is a key concern for the PC VR industry right now as the number of headsets with different features running on different platforms grows. We already have the Oculus Rift running on different trackers and a different platform to SteamVR and the HTC Vive, and soon Microsoft will introduce its own range of Windows 10 headsets with its own inside-out tracking and six degrees of freedom (6DOF) controllers. We may also soon have VR on Xbox One X as well as PCs. Keeping it simple to developer across all of these platforms is essential to keeping things simple for content creators.
Expect to see more mention of Direct Reality as the number of VR headsets starts to grow, then. It’s going to be a useful tool.