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Microsoft Joins Google, Facebook, Sony in Virtual Reality Race

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) could be planning to make a big move into wearable computers with its reported purchase of a portion of the somewhat secretive Osterhout Design Group in San Francisco.

Various sources said they believe Microsoft has paid between $100 million to $150 million for the intellectual property connected with ODG's X6 head-mounted computer to directly compete with the much-heralded Google (GOOG) Glass as well as Facebook's (FB) recent purchase -- the Oculus Rift and Sony's (SNE) upcoming virtual reality system.

Microsoft shares were gaining 0.39% to $41.58 in premarket trading.

TechCrunch reported Microsoft agreed to buy the IP assets related to augmented reality, the head gear and various related items from ODG, a company that primarily develops wearable computers for the military and other governmental organizations.

On its Web site, ODG describes itself as a firm that "develops emerging and disruptive technologies for Consumer, Industrial, and Defense product markets" and "a melting pot of revolutionary minds from across the world -- minds solely focused on The Big Tomorrow."

TechCrunch said the ODG deal had been in the works for months and closed last November with the patents actually being delivered back in January. ODG founder Ralph Osterhout confirmed the deal and said his company will continue to operate as an independent entity. Requests for confirmation from Microsoft have so far gone unanswered.

Web site Wmpower has discovered a YouTube video starring Ralph Osterhout which could shed some light on just what a future Microsoft VR device might be capable of:

As for the competition, the $1,500 Google Glass still is only available in beta form. Google isn't saying when or if it will officially offer the wearable device to the general public.

Last week, Facebook announced it was buying Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset, for $2 billion.

Sony has teased its own upcoming VR headset system code named "Project Morpheus" and has previewed two games which will run on its PS4 console. A consumer version of the system is expected sometime in 2015.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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