Kyle Orland
– 8/16/2018, 4:30 PM Hackers have uncovered and tested a screen-splitting “VR Mode” that has been buried in the Switch’s system-level firmware for over a year. The discovery suggests that Nintendo at least toyed with the idea that the tablet system could serve as a stereoscopic display for a virtual reality headset.

Switch hackers first discovered and documented references to a “VrMode” in the Switch OS’ Applet Manager services back in December when analyzing the June 2017 release of version 3.0.0 of the system’s firmware. But the community doesn’t seem to have done much testing of the internal functions “IsVrModeEnabled” and “SetVrModeEnabled” at the time.

As you can see in those video links, using those functions to enable the Switch’s VR mode splits the screen vertically into two identical half-sized images, in much the way other VR displays split an LCD screen to create a stereoscopic 3D effect. System-level UI elements appear on both sides of the screen when the mode is enabled, and the French text shown in the test can be roughly translated to “Please move the console away from your face and click the close button.”

The location of the functions in the Switch firmware suggest they’re part of Nintendo’s own Switch code and not generic functions included in other Nvidia Tegra-based hardware. Despite the discovery of this VrMode code (and previous hacked-together proof-of-concept tests from individual Switch owners), it’s hard to imagine the Switch’s large form factor, 720p resolution screen, and relatively low-end gyroscope would lead to a very robust VR experience.

That said, some industry watchers continue to speculate about a potential PS4 Pro/Xbox One X-style mid-generation hardware update for the Switch, which could provide the extra horsepower needed to enable passable virtual reality on the platform (Nintendo has not even hinted at any such plans, though). Regardless, the Switch’s VrMode functions are still buried in current versions of the Switch firmware, waiting for homebrew or even third-party developers to test it out in an actual piece of software, if they wish. Read more from…

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