Report: Microsoft is Working on an Xbox One VR Headset, is it Fortaleza?

Does Kinect finally have its killer app?

Jonathan Leackby Jonathan Leack

Whether or not you're ready for it the next big thing for video games is virtual reality. We've gotten to a point where games look "good enough". Now it's time to take that a step further by realizing the concept that several visionaries including Jaron Lanier only dreamed of years ago: virtual reality.

Sony is fully expected to debut its VR headset this week, and the extremely promising Oculus Rift is wrapping up its final stages of development. Microsoft doesn't want to be left behind, and according to The Wall Street Journal, a source has leaked that Microsoft has a VR headset in development.

Last November a patent was discovered which revealed a device called Fortaleza, a virtual reality headset made specifically for the Xbox One. The patent is still viewable online and includes the following descriptions of its use:

1. A method for inviting a potential player to participate in a multiplayer game with a user, the multiplayer game displayed by a display of a user head-mounted display device, comprising: receiving user voice data from the user; determining that the user voice data is an invitation to participate in the multiplayer game; receiving eye-tracking information, depth information, facial recognition information, potential player head-mounted display device information, and/or potential player voice data; associating the invitation with the potential player using the eye-tracking information, the depth information, the facial recognition information, the potential player head-mounted display device information, and/or the potential player voice data; matching a potential player account with the potential player; receiving an acceptance response from the potential player; and joining the potential player account with a user account associated with the user in participating in the multiplayer game. 

19. A computer-readable storage medium comprising instructions stored thereon and executable by a computing device to enable a user to invite a potential player to participate in a multiplayer game with the user, the instructions being executable to: receive user voice data from the user; determine that the user voice data is an invitation to participate in a multiplayer game; receive eye-tracking information, depth information, facial recognition information, potential player head-mounted display device information, and/or potential player voice data; associate the invitation with the potential player using the eye-tracking information, the depth information, the facial recognition information, the potential player head-mounted display device information, and/or the potential player voice data; match a potential player account with the potential player; receive an acceptance response from the potential player; and join the potential player account with a user account associated with the user in participating in the multiplayer game. 

20. The computer-readable storage medium of claim 19, wherein the depth information comprises a measured depth in an interaction space in which the user and the potential player are located, and the instructions are executable by the computing device to: use the depth information to select a suggested multiplayer game that is physically compatible with the measured depth of the interaction space; and suggest to the user the suggested multiplayer game.

The big difference between Fortaleza and competing devices is that every Xbox One comes with a Kinect. The Kinect is a very powerful piece of technology can be used in a variety of ways, most important of which are voice recognition and body tracking. These two elements combined with a VR headset could have huge implications in the VR gaming world.

Little else is known about the device other than a few images that have popped up around the web (which are viewable in the gallery below). Originally it was conceived as a "smart" version of 3D glasses, but with the growing popularity of full VR Microsoft has likely refocused its design.

If I had to make a bet, I'd say that we'll hear something about it at this year's E3. VR is about to explode later this year when Oculus Rift releases, and Microsoft needs to be ahead of the trend for the sake of being relevant.