When someone first tests a modern VR headset it isn’t usually news, but when it’s Microsoft founder, billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, an exception should be made. After all, he’s near the top of the list of people most responsible for defining how the majority of the planet interacts with computers. In other words, his opinions carry weight.
He tried out the HTC Vive with the Maria Sharapova tennis experience, offering him the chance to play against a virtual Sharapova.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) November 4, 2015
Gates left day-to-day operations at Microsoft years ago but putting his name to the statement that today’s VR represents a “breakthrough” is a “very cool” endorsement of the technology. The phrasing of the tweet refers to “breakthroughs” in the plural sense, so I hope we hear at some point more nuanced thoughts about modern VR and what else he might’ve tried. His work after Microsoft has focused on bettering humanity through philanthropy and it would be interesting to hear if he thinks VR could be used as a tool to make people more aware of humanitarian issues. Former President Bill Clinton, for example, has used VR to show people current conditions in East Africa.
As a side note, it doesn’t signify much given how little Gates has been involved in Microsoft’s regular operations but the software giant is partnering with the Vive’s chief competition, Facebook’s Oculus, on a number of projects. Microsoft is letting Oculus CTO John Carmack bring Minecraft to both the Gear VR and Rift and an Xbox One controller will be included in the box with every Rift. Plus, Rift owners will be able to play Xbox One games streamed to the Rift in a virtual theater.