Microsoft patents weird VR glove – but could it come to Xbox Series X?

Man playing VR wearing a grey Xbox T-shirt
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Roman Chazov/Microsoft)

Microsoft has patented a VR glove that lets users experience physical feedback, but it's unclear whether the product will ever see the light of day, let alone come to Xbox Series X.

That's not to say Microsoft's VR glove is a fruitless endeavor. Virtual reality’s slowly reached a point where we’re able to better simulate ourselves in a digital space, but there are still a few things that it lacks. Beyond some minor resistance via haptic feedback, most existing VR controllers can’t accurately simulate the weight of holding objects, but according to Microsoft's recent patent, its VR glove may be the solution.

Spotted by PatentlyApple, the patent was first unveiled earlier this month, filed through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) under patent EP3977239. Described as an accessory that allows for better VR interactions, work began on Microsoft's VR gloves in 2019, with the patent explaining they’d provide physical feedback to VR users when lifting up virtual objects.

So, how does it achieve this? By placing a “force-applying mechanism” on the back of the gloves, equipping them with sensors and motors. That’ll apply force feedback against your knuckles, better simulating object interaction. According to this patent, this is designed for professional use and video games. 

Back in 2020, Microsoft unveiled a haptic wrist-worn VR device called PIVOT, designed to swing into the wearer’s palm for a more believable catching and throwing experience. It’s true that the VR glove’s design looks significantly different to PIVOT but, given the common ground between them, it could be building upon that prior research.

It’s an idea reminiscent of Nintendo’s infamous Power Glove, a NES accessory mostly remembered for its role in the 1989 movie, The Wizard, starring Fred Savage. Designed to let you play games through hand gestures, the Power Glove was poorly received for its imprecise controls. When your film’s protagonist actively states “I love the power glove. It's so bad,” Nintendo evidently knew it.

It’s worth noting that just because these VR gloves reached the patent phase, that doesn’t mean this product will be released to consumer markets. Many patented products don’t get a retail release and Microsoft’s engineers could be looking at this for research only, so until there’s an official announcement saying otherwise, we’d advise keeping expectations in check.

If the VR glove does come to market, Microsoft wouldn’t be the only player marketing VR gloves right now. The recent SenseGlove Nova is a pair of haptic gloves that can function with standalone headsets, like the Oculus Quest 2. Sadly, these aren’t currently designed for the average VR user and they cost a whopping €3,999 (around $4,341.47) alone. So if Microsoft does bring this market, there’s no telling how they’ll be able to hit a consumer-friendly price point. 

Could we ever see Xbox VR? 

Unlike Sony, with its upcoming PlayStation VR 2, Microsoft hasn’t shown much interest in VR on the console gaming front, aside from Minecraft on the original PSVR. We’ve previously heard talk about a potential Xbox VR headset and last year, a message discovered by Italian Xbox users had a pop-up message stating “An update for the VR headset is available.” Sadly, this was put down to a translation error, but it left fans wondering. 

Generally, Microsoft has focused on PC VR through mixed reality headsets, such as HoloLens. When asked previously, Xbox boss Phil Spencer hasn’t ruled out VR on Xbox, but he’s expressed reservations about its suitability for the living room. That said, this patent does specifically mention use for ‘gaming, industrial, commercial and healthcare scenarios,’ so there’s always scope for this in the future.

Henry Stockdale

Henry is a freelance writer based in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. When he's not wandering in VR or burning through his RPG backlog, he's probably planning his next D&D session.