From a gaming perspective, the big announcement at Microsoft’s E3 press briefing was that they are bringing backwards compatibility to the Xbox One. If you were looking for the next wave in technology and just general spectacle, Microsoft stole the show with a live on-stage demonstration of their HoloLens technology while playing Minecraft.
The Microsoft press briefing showed off a special version of Minecraft for the HoloLens that was also synced up with an on-stage demonstration of the game being run on a Surface tablet. The HoloLens user played the game on a screen in the wall (the presentation didn’t make it clear if it was just a screen he could see through the HoloLens or part of the stage) and then moved over to a table where a version of the world rose out of the table.
Effectively, HoloLens creates an augmented reality that is only viewable through the HoloLens headset. This seemingly allows for the creation of a screen recreation on the wall or a fully 3D augmented reality “hologram.” The impressive thing about HoloLens is that you’re not just limited to looking at the holograms but you can interact with them as well.
While it seemed to work fairly seamlessly in moving and exploring the environment, some of the live demonstrations noted a few issues with the HoloLens. One user noted that the device itself can be bulky with all of the various equipment needed to make the hardware function sitting on your head. Another noted that the screen which you can see your augmented world through is fairly small and it doesn’t have the depth of view that he was expecting.
It’s still very much a prototype technology. That being said, the consensus is that while the HoloLens is really cool, it isn’t quite at the same level of usefulness and quality as the current spectrum of virtual reality headsets. Augmented reality will eventually be a fact of life (I worked on a university project about the applications of augmented reality in health care and there are a lot of practical applications for augmented reality in real life) but there is still a ways to go before it’s ready for widespread and gaming use.
So here’s the big on-stage demonstration. It’s cool but you almost wonder if this is practical for more than just a few games and if it won’t be just a gimmick that does more harm than good.
One big problem that might kill the HoloLens on arrival is the price. A May report in the New York Times said that the price of a HoloLens would cost “significantly more than a game console.” The Xbox One starts at $350 at the low-end. So that would mean that a HoloLens would likely be priced out of the range of most gamers. I thought the Xbox Elite controller priced at $150 would die a death on price alone. The HoloLens risks that as well.