How Microsoft's Oculus Rift Partnership Affects HoloLens

"This partnership allows us to focus on a space that's different from them with our Hololens," Phil Spencer says.

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The partnership Microsoft announced yesterday with Oculus VR may have caught some people by surprise given that the Xbox company already has its own head-mounted display technology in HoloLens. But Xbox boss Phil Spencer says in a new interview that teaming up with Oculus actually gives Microsoft the opportunity to focus on HoloLens, a technology that still needs a lot of work.

"This partnership allows us to focus on a space that's different from them with our HoloLens, which has a lot of things still to be figured out," he told the International Business Times. "This partnership seemed like the right [thing] for me. The whole HoloLens team sent me a picture--they actually watched the briefing with the Hololens on, streaming the picture on the wall. It's like the most surreal thing, but they were all really excited about the show."

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As for how the partnership itself came to be, Spencer said the "real motivation" behind it was Microsoft wanting to support ecosystems doing "real innovative" work on PC. "I think that's a good spot for us to be," he said, noting that he has also known Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe for years.

The first edition of the Oculus Rift consumer model launches in the first quarter of 2016, while Microsoft has yet to provide any details on when people will be able to buy a HoloLens headset. The technology will be on display next week at E3, however, so we may find out more about it soon.

Also in the interview, Spencer clarified how streaming Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift headset will work.

"It's a 2-D display in a 3-D world, so we're not turning all the Xbox games into virtual reality games," he said. "But the fact that you get a big screen--the screen kind of feels like that [points to a giant projection screen at the event that's about 7 feet by 10 feet]--and the fact that everything else is nonexistent, everything else is blacked out, your mind's eye is on the screen, it's really a nice, immersive, dark experience. And a lot of the guys back at the office, that's the way they want to play."

Announced yesterday during the Oculus VR E3 Conference, all Oculus Rift consumer packages will come with an Xbox One controller. Official pricing for the consumer model has not been announced, but Oculus said previously that the "all-in" cost--the headset and a capable PC--will be around $1,500.

Microsoft competitor Sony is also working on virtual reality technology in the form of Project Morpheus. That PlayStation 4 headset is due to launch in the first half of calendar 2016.

For lots more on news from this week's Oculus VR event, check out a roundup of the big stories below.

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