Following Google’s trend for wearable computers, every big company is now investing in the research and development of these devices. For instance, Facebook recently bought for $2 billion the Oculus Virtual Reality, soon followed by Microsoft, which also decided to invest about $150 millions in augmented reality assets.
Last week, a couple of reports regarding the acquisition began surfacing the web. Apparently, Microsoft invested $150 million to acquire the technological rights of the company ODG – Osterhout Design Group. Why? We don’t know for sure yet, all that we can tell you is that until now, ODG was building displays for wearable devices used by government organizations and military purposes.
The official statements weren’t many, but we managed to grasp some important Intel from them; for instance, Ralph Osterhout one of the founders and head of ODG said that the company will continue to focus on government requirements, and that Microsoft claims will go second. Other than that, the terms of the purchase haven’t been made public. However, ODG’s portfolio is pretty impressive considering that they already hold 81 patents for wearable technology and besides this, Osterhout says that his company has a lot of daily use inventions that could make a change in the customer’s lifestyle.
On the other hand, the patents owned by ODG describe technology that could compete directly against Google Glass, but their actual inventions go closer to Oculus VR than Glass, because they mainly feature augmented reality rather than smartphone companion software. A clear example of ODG patent is US8477425 B2, which describe a pair of glasses similar with Glass, but optimized for 3D interaction and AR features.
As you know, Google Glass cannot project imagery on surrounding objects therefore it cannot be used for augmented reality purposes. Glass can only display images on its tiny screen, placed above your right eye. And it’s understandable considering that it was designed for different uses and shouldn’t be distracting for the user.
These aren’t the first rumors related to Microsoft making its way in the wearable computers technology, and we’re sure that many others will follow. But we can’t be sure that the company acquired ODC precisely to release a Glass competitor; after all, they have a lot of devices that could be improved by adding augmented reality features. In April, we found a report saying that Microsoft might develop a VR headset for their Xbox One or Xbox 360. So, when it comes to this technology, the possibilities go many times beyond understanding.
In this new light of events, we believe that Microsoft might develop a device to compete with Project Morpheus, recently announced by Sony, which also aims to create an AR headset for the PlayStation.