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Microsoft ignores VR at its Xbox One X launch event

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Microsoft announces original Xbox backwards compatibility for the Xbox One X

At its E3 Xbox One X reveal event on Sunday, Microsoft shared a relentless stream of boundary-pushing system specs for the new console, but it stayed surprisingly quiet regarding the future of virtual reality on the device.

Few expected announcements related to a simultaneous VR headset launch as the company had already sought to temper expectations earlier this year saying that VR content releases on “Project Scorpio” would take place in 2018.

The fact that VR support was barely touched on at E3 seemed a bit strange however, given the attention Microsoft has been giving to its “mixed reality” headsets which will launch later this year. The headsets, built by partners like Acer, HP and Dell will be priced lower than options from Oculus and HTC and will be capable of running on much lower-end PCs. While many might see these options as a sort of middle-tier solution to the Rift and Vive, Microsoft expects VR running on the Xbox One X to compete on the high-end.

In an interview with Polygon earlier this week, HoloLens guru Alex Kipman said that Microsoft was hoping to bring wireless VR to its consoles. “Given the efforts we have underway on Windows for mixed reality, and our belief that console VR should be wireless, right now we are focused on developing mixed reality experiences for the PC, not on the console.”

It’s a bit odd, given that most of the push for wireless is being done on the all-in-one side, where the compute power is also in the headset, allowing the user to roam freely with the headset as far as battery life allows.

With console-powered wireless, Microsoft would assumedly be looking at streaming technologies similar to those being used by companies like TPCast and DisplayLink which free users of a physical cord but rely on physical proximity to a transmitter to ensure a seamless connection. This would also necessitate a headset with an imbedded battery, which would likely need to be pretty hefty to account for longer gaming sessions. These technologies would undoubtedly add cost to the device as well.

With this strategy, Microsoft risks a late entry to virtual reality gaming while its primary console competitor, Sony, already begins to see notable success in moving PlayStation VR units, announcing just this past week that the company has surpassed 1 million headsets sold globally since first launching the virtual reality system in October.

Microsoft has already lauded “Project Scorpio,” now Xbox One X, as a VR powerhouse so we’ll undoubtedly see some virtual reality announcements in its future, but with no details at its launch event, its unclear how long we’ll have to wait.