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Oculus' Latest Move Will Blend Virtual and Real Worlds

The Oculus Rift already has the power to immerse people in virtual worlds, but it soon might gain the ability to enhance the real one. Oculus VR has acquired 3D visualization company Surreal Vision, a group whose technology could someday allow the Rift to evolve beyond a mere virtual-reality device.

Surreal Vision is a U.K.-based company that specializes in scene reconstruction -- in other words, capturing elements of the real world and bringing them into a virtual environment. While Oculus hasn't specified when we might see Surreal's tech on one of its headsets, the VR company did note in a blog post that "scene reconstruction will enable a new level of presence and telepresence, allowing you to move around the real world and interact with real-world objects from within VR" in a blog post

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The integration of real-world mapping would mark a significant evolution of the Oculus Rift headset, which is currently designed solely to provide virtual experiences. It wouldn't be the first headset to offer the best of both worlds -- the Sulon Cortex, which is currently available as a $500 developer kit, is built to blend virtual and augmented reality by tracking your environment via a set of built-in spatial sensors.

An environmentally aware Oculus Rift could eventually go head-on with Microsoft's upcoming HoloLens, and an augmented-reality headset that lets you interact with holograms in everyday life -- whether you want to open a Skype chat on your living room wall or check the temperature on a holographic weather globe.

Whether or not it launches with 3D-mapping capabilities, the first-ever consumer version of the Oculus Rift is almost here. The headset is currently slated for an early 2016 launch, with no official price set for now. 

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico. Follow us@TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.