Microsoft HoloLens

For this blog I'm going to be researching the Microsoft HoloLens. First some hardware details about the HoloLens. It is a headset of smart-glasses that are cordless. It is essentially a self contained windows 10 computer with multiple processors that is able to sift through "terrabytes of data" in real time. The smart-glasses provide a 3D optical head-mounted display, creating what is known as an Augmented Reality (AR).  The unit also provides spatial sound to create surround sound if you will. It does have a micro USB port for charging, buttons for brightness, volume, and power. Also there are LED lights to indicate power status and battery.

When using the HoloLens the device tracks your eye movement, so you're able to interact with the AR through a combination of your gaze, voice and hand gestures. A stark difference to many devices of similar design coming out right now is that the Microsoft is going for the Augmented Reality, a virtual world that layers over the real world where the other devices on the field are creating a virtual world that you exist in.

The HoloLens can serve a multitude of purposes. First and foremost I feel that the device will shine with design applications. Applications like Maya and Holostudio will take great advantage of the new technology. Secondly a big piece will be, being able to see in a completely new manner places you may not be able to physically see. For example working remotely on a project as a team, but this wouldn't be limited to just across the ocean but across the solar system. Jet Propulsion Labs is already using this technology with the Mars rover, to see Mars in a completely different manner than just 2D images or even with video. Communication will be enhanced with this device, for example if you're needing help fixing something at home you could call help desk for tech support for the device or appliance that is failing and the tech on the other end of the line could see exactly what you see to further enhance their ability. Another purpose could be general pieces around the house, like maybe a shopping list in AR on the fridge or see messages on a phone or modify your thermostat without having to touch it...etc. Another purpose it could serve would be advertising. If you're wearing the HoloLens while walking down the street instead of the billboard just being a static image it could be a video/animation, or you could see the menu of a restaurant while walking by or see prices in a grocery store. Another purpose will be in education, for example a science teacher could show experiments they wouldn't otherwise be able to or in med school or automotive school. There will even be AR video games, one that has been demonstrated was Minecraft with the ability to design your world within AR rather than having to be in simply 2D to do it.

Similar cultural and social implications will exist with AR as will with VR. When thinking about this I can't help but think of the book I'm reading "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. At what point do people stop living in the real world and live their entire life in a simulated world. With AR this won't be as difficult since AR is more like an overlay of reality but the possibility still remains. You never necessarily need to leave the house. If you never saw the movie "Surrogates" with Bruce Willis now might be a time to do so. In the movie people live through a drone, known as a surrogate. They stay at home in an apparatus and through a VR/AR interface experience the world as if they were their drone. But hey, we'll never get like that...right?

Honestly I don't see hardcore/serious gamers flocking out to get the HoloLens. Of course there will be great games created with the HoloLens in mind, just think of any competitive sport or any game like hide and seek and imagine adding AR to it, with your imagination being the limit. I could be wrong, maybe gamers will purchase it like there is no tomorrow but with the state of things as it currently is, VR systems like the Oculus Rift will be what the majority of gamers purchase while the HoloLens will take off in every other category where money is not a concern.

Some aspects that could cause issues with the market are: first, it is a microsoft product and microsoft has had many fumbles with emerging concepts however they have also had great success so it could go either way. Secondly is that the device actually has a limited field of view. When you're seeing the demonstrations of this you're not able to experience that but from what I've read it is a very small field of view that is actually in AR - almost to the point you have to be looking directly at it or just about, like with a monitor in front of you on your desk. That is a rough estimation as to what I've read so hopefully I'm not off. Third is quite frankly the price, the device is going to cost more than a console. The price will be a turn off for many consumers. The last point is a personal issue, why can't it be something that can change between VR and AR. This device is obviously quite powerful, so why not have a switch of some sort to be able to change from one to the other. In my opinion the first company that creates the dual device will start pulling out ahead of the rest. Could you say, one headset to rule them all?

Although I may have thought about a number of downfalls to the device I do believe that it will still be successful. AR through the HoloLens will do great in many business ventures, in educational applications, research and exploration. However I do not see the HoloLens doing great with gamers, at least initially. I could be wrong as we still have a year to go before the dev kit is released and that is when we will start seeing a lot more of the potential.

If I were to design games with the HoloLens in mind I would create games like I mentioned earlier. Take real world physical games and add a new layer to them. Imagine playing a game with nerf blasters, but with AR engaged the blasters could be shooting funny, crazy, realistic bullets or explosives. One could create a laser tag arena where all of the smoke, lights and effects are actually part of the AR, so players could choose the setting for the game to take place in. Another game design could just be fun casual games around the house, maybe educational games for children to play. However one game I think could actually do well is a live action role playing game, commonly known as LARP. This could actually be a way to engage gamers and keep us active. Another game type out there is one where you capture locations by tagging them with your phone app the game. This would be a game type that could be greatly expanded upon with the HoloLens' capability.

Earlier I thought that gamers wouldn't be a strong market for the HoloLens but after the LARP game idea I could see this being done right and gamers having enough options to make it a worthwhile entertainment investment. The future in general is going to be an interesting place, let alone the future of what we call gaming.


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