Microsoft to buy $150 Million worth of head-mounted wearable display patents

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Facebook surprised everyone recently when it bought Oculus VR for $2 billion. Sony is working on its own VR peripheral for the PS4, and now Microsoft might be planning its own version of VR after buying $150 million in patents from a company you’ve probably never heard of.

Microsoft has purchased 81 current and at least 75 in-process patents from a firm called Osterhout Design Group. This company doesn’t make consumer technology, which explains its low profile. Osterhout’s biggest customer is the US government, but the company also has (or rather had) a large cache of VR patents with titles like “Video display modification based on sensor input for a see-through near-to-eye display.”

If this device is based on the Osterhout patents, it might have a different use case than currently announced VR systems. Most of the Osterhout patents cover semi-transparent display tech that is lighter that a fully-enclosed visor — maybe more augmented reality than virtual reality. Still, many of the patents are general enough that Microsoft could simply be setting itself up to cash in by extracting licensing fees from other companies, much like it does with Android. Whatever Redmond’s plans, they’ve got some catching up to do.

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