The Oculus Rift already understands where you are looking and how you’re moving your body — and now, thanks to an acquisition, it may soon understand the space around you.

Oculus VR, the Facebook subsidiary responsible for the latest virtual-reality revolution, just acquired technology startup Surreal Vision. Neither company disclosed the terms of the deal. Surreal will bring its “real-time 3D scene reconstruction” technology to Oculus. So one of the biggest names in virtual reality now owns one of the companies designing spatially aware computers. Put more simply, combining the Rift headset with Surreal Vision would enable VR software to see the real world around the player and possibly bring those objects into the games. This could potentially solve many of the problems that walking around a room with a screen over your eyes creates.

We’ve reached out to Oculus VR to ask if this acquisition will affect the rollout of the Rift headset, which is due out in the first quarter of 2016. We’ll update this post with any new information.


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Richard Newcombe, Renato Salas-Moreno, and Steven Lovegrove are the founders of Surreal Vision. They will continue working together on their technology as part of Oculus’s research division in Redmond, Wash.

The three men wrote a statement about the acquisition, and they even explained how their world-tracking magic works.

“Over the past three decades, a great deal of work in computer vision has attempted to mimic human-class perceptual capabilities using color and depth cameras,” reads the team’s statement. “At Surreal Vision, we are overhauling state-of-the-art 3D scene reconstruction algorithms to provide a rich, up-to-date model of everything in the environment including people and their interactions with each other. We’re developing breakthrough techniques to capture, interpret, manage, analyze, and finally reproject in real-time a model of reality back to the user in a way that feels real, creating a new, mixed reality that brings together the virtual and real worlds.”

This is not just a fancy trick. Enabling software to understand the world around it represents a major leap for virtual reality, and it is a crucial step in bringing about augmented reality — which is a way of overlaying computer data on top of the real world.

The use cases also go well beyond gaming.

“[This] will open the door to true telepresence, where people can visit anyone, anywhere,” reads the statement.

And now, with the backing of Facebook and Oculus, Surreal Vision expects it will go on to achieve its goal of enabling computer systems to fully understand physical space.

“Given the team, the resources, and [our] shared vision, there’s no better place for us to help bring about these breakthroughs than Oculus,” reads the statement. “We’re incredibly excited for the future.”

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