Microsoft appears to be taking inspiration from Google Cardboard with “VR Kit” for Windows phones.
Much like Cardboard, VR Kit aims to enable cheap virtual reality through a cardboard box with a pair of attached eye lenses. Users slide their phone into the box, and view apps that are formatted for viewing through the lenses up close.
Microsoft has yet to make a big announcement about VR Kit. The project was revealed through a Russian website (via Thurrott.com), inviting programmers to create VR Kit apps at a hackathon on October 17. Participants will get their own cardboard phone holder, and will compete to win prizes for the best VR game, education app, and corporate app. A Kinect scanner will allow people to bring 3D models of themselves into the virtual world.
The pictured cardboard box looks similar to the ones used by Google, and includes a camera hole cutout, possibly allowing for augmented reality applications (like an ultra-low-end version of Microsoft HoloLens). The hackathon website also mentions programming 2D VR games in Unity with gamepad support.
Microsoft is holding a press event on October 6, where it’s expected to announce new Lumia smartphones, the Surface Pro 4 tablet, and a new Microsoft Band wearable. Perhaps VR Kit is also on the agenda.
Why this matters: While Microsoft is betting big on augmented reality with HoloLens, the company’s been quiet on the VR front despite growing interest from Google, Sony, Valve, Facebook, and Samsung. With Windows phone being completely left out of the VR conversation, Microsoft appears to be taking matters into its own hands, though VR Kit will deal with the same ecosystem challenges facing Windows 10 Mobile as a whole.