A recently published patent from Microsoft (h/t Game Rant) for “enhanced eye tracking systems” has generated buzz that Microsoft could be working on a new VR headset. The patent filing shows a pair of glasses that use a combination of cameras and eye positioning to create a self-calibrating eye-tracking system.
Now, while people have quickly jumped to calling this latest patent a sign that Microsoft is planning a PSVR 2 rival, I am skeptical. First, the glasses look more like an augmented reality device akin to the rumored Apples Glasses or a potential mixed reality device — perhaps even a future update to Microsoft Hololens 2.
However, just because the drawing is showing a pair of glasses doesn’t mean that this eye-tracking feature can’t translate to a VR headset. Meta has eye-tracking features in the Quest Pro mixed reality headset and we're hoping some eye-tracking features make their way into the Meta Quest 3. Sony’s PSVR 2 gaming headset also supports eye-tracking and the expectation is the yet-to-be-released Apple VR/AR headset will have eye-tracking features as well.
In short, a modern VR headset would need eye-tracking features, so just because Microsoft shows glasses in its patent doesn’t mean that the feature won’t make its way into a future VR headset.
At the same time though, there’s additional evidence which suggests Microsoft’s latest patent isn’t aimed at a VR device — or at the very least isn’t aimed at a headset that could compete with the PSVR 2. As recently as 2021, Xbox chief Phil Spencer has stated that Microsoft isn’t looking at getting into the VR gaming market. “I applaud what Sony‘s doing, I applaud what Oculus is doing, what Valve has done. I mean, there’s a lot of good players out there that have done some amazing VR work. But yeah, we’re gonna stay as a company right now in the consumer space focused on software, and I think that’s a good bet."
And this wasn’t the first time Spencer had said that Microsoft is passing on VR gaming. In 2019 he called VR “isolating “ and said nobody wants the product. And to be fair, the recent buzz in the VR gaming world says that PSVR 2 sales are reportedly not living up to Sony’s expectations despite the fact that the headset has been well received critically, including by us.
My guess is that this is a patent related to Hololens or potentially a set of AR glasses down the line. Apple’s rumored AR Glasses are currently tipped to launch as soon as 2026 and a leaked Meta roadmap suggested that full AR glasses could be coming from Zuckerberg in 2027.
So it would make sense for Microsoft to try and corner that emerging market, rather than go into the struggling VR gaming industry against the wishes of Spencer. But that hasn’t stopped some of us at Tom’s Guide from asking for Xbox Series X VR anyway.