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Xbox VR could be a thing, according to new patent

Will the next Xbox support virtual reality? That's the question being raised after the discovery of a new VR patent application filed by Microsoft yesterday.

The patent name is about as generic as they come: "VIRTUAL REALITY FLOOR MAT ACTIVITY REGION." And it doesn't look like it has any ties to the augmented reality headsets Microsoft has been pushing so hard. Rather, this floor mat is for virtual reality, or the kind you can't see very well while using. The purpose of the mat would be to simply let your VR headset know where you are in physical space, so that you can remain safe while enjoying your VR experience.

But here's the real interesting bit: the patent makes mention of working with a number of VR systems, including standalone headsets (like the Oculus Quest) and headsets that work in conjunction with "computing systems." And one of those systems "may take the form of a gaming console," according to the patent.

So is that it? Should we automatically consider Xbox VR a thing now and start saving money for the new Xbox virtual reality package? Not quite. As we've seen with AR, Microsoft will sometimes take an interest in developing technologies, yet will shy away from applying those technologies to gaming. And you might recall that the Oculus Rift shipped with Xbox One controllers, and we were all so sure the Xbox One was going to be compatible with the Rift. That never happened, either.

Microsoft could simply be banking what its R&D division has been working on, and may not have any intention of ever releasing this VR mat. That is a real possibility.

If Microsoft has any grand plans for VR on the next Xbox, we probably won't know about them until closer to that system's launch. The company's next-gen console — codenamed Project Scarlett — is set to arrive sometime in Holiday 2020. When we get more details about that console (or about Microsoft's future in VR), we'll get you an update.