Nintendo's popular Switch handheld-console hybrid actually has a stock VR mode built into the device, hackers find.
While rooting around the software guts of the Switch, hackers OatmealDome and random666_kys found the system has a VR Mode built into its IPC services section. Similar findings were uncovered first by hacker daeken last year, but users were actually able to test the Switch's VR mode this time around.
Running VR mode mirrors the screen in two halves, similar to an Oculus Rift's or HTC Vive's screen before the images are manipulated by lenses. A display message pops up saying "please move the console away from your face and click the close button," both of which strongly indicate the Switch may support some sort of mobile VR. It's possible the Switch tablet could slot into a mobile headset similar to a Samsung Galaxy phone into a Gear VR headset to provide light VR gaming. Remember the Switch runs a stock NVIDIA Tegra X1 chip that's not nearly powerful enough for dedicated VR gaming, so if anything it'd be mobile-like experiences.
This isn't the first time we've heard about VR on the Switch. Far from it, actually. Back in 2016, I wrote quite a bit about the Nintendo Switch (then called the "NX") and its possible virtual reality capabilities.
In June 2016, Nintendo confirmed that it's officially researching VR. Shigeru Miyamoto said that Nintendo has the "core technology" for VR (the Switch, with its built-in accelerometers, trackers, and components could be the core tech)
"I heard VR was a hot topic at E3, so I went to check it out. It was on display, but it wasn't what I expected. We're also researching VR, so we have the core technology. Long play sessions are an issue. We want to release something that can be played for long periods, carries value, and is affordable. We want parents to feel at ease."
The biggest tip off to Switch VR was the lengthy Nintendo patents published in December 2016. The patents clearly show the Switch being inserted into a HMD shell, which is worn on a user's head.
Here's a few choice snippets from the patent that illustrates what Nintendo had in mind:
The information processing system may include an accessory to which the main unit 2 can be attached. An HMD accessory can be used as a so-called HMD (head mounted display) with the main united attached.
FIG 60 is a diagram showing an example HDM accessory to which the mainu unit 2 can be attached. An HMD accessory 230 shown in FIG 60 includes a housing 213 and belts 232a and 232b. One
Thus the housing can be mounted on the head of the user by connecting together to two belts around the head of the user. Note that there is no particular limitation on the mechanism for allowing the HMD accessory to be mounted on the head of the user.
As shown in FIG 60, the housing 213 includes two openings 231a. The openings 231a are located so as to face the eyes of the user while the housing is mounted on the head of the user. Although not shown in the figure, the HMD accessory includes a lens provided in each of the openings.
The housing includes an insertion slot for receiving the main unit. The main unit can be attached to the HMD accessory if inserted in this way. If the main united is attached so that the display is facing the openings, the display can be viewed through the lenses.
Note that the HMD accessory may present images of a wide viewing angle to a user by enlarging the viewing angle of the images on the display through the lenses. This can enhance the sense of immersion for a user looking at the images.
The main unit can calculate the movement/and or attitude of the HMD accessory.
Note that the predetermined process, for example, is a process of controlling a virtual camera for producing images to be displayed on the display based on the movement and/or attitude of the HMD accessory, and more specifically is a process of changing the line-of-sight direction of the virtual camera depending on the attitude.
Bear in mind this doesn't necessarily mean the Switch will actually support VR in the future. All it means is Nintendo was experimenting with the possibility of Switch VR, and that the mode is present in the final hardware.
At the same time, this is an interesting development. If Switch VR is indeed on the way I'm curious if Nintendo's patented Supplemental Computing Device will be required to boost the tablet's internal hardware.
In any case, we shouldn't expect Nintendo to talk about VR very much until they're ready to release something definite. The company is quite secretive and keeps things under wraps to say the least...but the concept of a console that not only turns into a handheld but supports VR on-the-go is quite novel indeed.
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