Hands On With HoloLens And Augmented Reality Minecraft

“Is it real?” I ask. I’m looking around at the landscape of Mars, where a dusty, rocky desert stretches in every direction, reddish mountains rising in the distance. It looks so vivid, so strangely plausible that it’s hard to believe that I’m actually looking at the surface of another planet and not the set of a sci-fi movie.

The gentleman who works for Microsoft assure me that it is, in fact, real—depending on how you think about it. I’m currently wearing a prototype version of the HoloLens, a new augmented reality headset announced yesterday by Microsoft, and exploring real three-dimensional images collected from the Mars Curiosity rover using a tool called OnSight.

Unlike VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, the HoloLens only takes up a small part of your field of vision—depending on where you turn your head to look—and uses voice and gesture commands. Although the office around me and the two Microsoft employees next to me are clearly visible in my peripheral vision, so is the holographic world projected in front of it. Wherever I look, Mars appears. In a strange way, they both seem real, two layers of reality coexisting in a way that sounds cacophonous but feels oddly intuitive.

Admittedly, gazing about in three-dimensional space is nothing that the Oculus Rift can’t do—and in many cases, can’t do better, especially since the Rift immerses you in a complete landscape, rather than revealing it piecemeal depending on where you look. But the HoloLens does more, or at least it does it something different.

When I walk towards a nearby desk with a computer, I notice that that Martian landscape disappears beneath it, rather than projecting over it; users can designate areas where they don’t want holograms to appear, which is especially useful if you want to interact with the holograms using a computer. They encourage me to hold the mouse, and when I move the cursor off the screen, it appears suddenly within the holograph as though the Martian landscape has become an extension of my desktop.

Suddenly, a man appears on the Martian plain. Or at least, the shape of a man appears, a featureless avatar who announces that he’s from NASA. “Is he real?” I ask. He promises me that he is—that I’m speaking live to a member of the NASA team that Microsoft has been working with to develop this program, which will allow JPL to explore the data they collect from the Rover collaboratively, interactively and three-dimensionally.

Despite augmented reality’s reputation for faint, shuddering images, everything I was seeing through the HoloLens was surprisingly crisp and offered little lag. The man points out a distant rock, and suggests that I tag it, so that the Rover can analyze it with its ChemCam laser, something he says NASA will actually be able to do via the HoloLens. I hold my arm out within my field of vision, lifting and retracting my index finger like that little kid from The Shining, a gesture they call air-tapping. It plants a flag on Mars.

In the next demo, we’re introduced to HoloStudio, a program for building 3D objects. While one man gives a quick speech about the finer points of the tool, another stands in the middle of the room, pointing and moving his fingers in empty space, like he’s conducting an invisible orchestra. On several nearby screens, we get to see what he’s “really” doing: building a three-dimensional koala with a jetpack from a series of preset shapes that he shrinks, enlarges, copies, pastes and colors. Eventually, he says, you’ll be able to send whatever you build off for 3D printing with a click of a button, and receive it in the mail with the ease of an Amazon package.

When he finishes with his creation, the man wearing the HoloLens digitally picks the koala in his hands and set it down on a nearby couch, right next to a 3D printed car that was also designed in HoloStudio. Shortly afterwards, the man walks over to the couch, moves the car out of the way, and sits down. For a moment I feel disoriented, like the muscles of my brain are stretching in an unfamiliar way. Why did he move the car and not the koala? I wonder for a moment. Because the car is real, and the koala isn’t, I remind myself.

There’s something about the HoloLens experience that seems to blur these edges between real and unreal in strange and sometimes exciting ways. Unlike VR headsets, which plunge you wholesale into an immersive and completely different world, the HoloLens feels more like shining a digital spotlight—directed by your gaze—that scrapes away the real world and reveals a new one glimmering underneath it.

Perhaps the most exciting development for gamers is the HoloLens version of Minecraft, currently referred to as HoloBuilder. The HoloLens has the ability scan a room to map objects and surfaces, turning the world around you into the terrain of the game. After donning the headset again for the HoloBuilder demo, a gentleman from Microsoft suggests that I look under a nearby coffee table. When I kneel down and peer beneath, a charming little Minecraft castle reveals itself. Shadows—presumably from the table above—cover the castle, and I drop a little redstone torch beside a man on the drawbridge. The area around him fills with light.

I notice a small band of Minecraft zombies lurking nearby, and decide that it’s time for them to die. “Shovel,” I say, and the cursor transforms into a digging tool. Before my Microsoft guides can give me further instructions, I click a block beneath one of the zombies, and he disappear through the hole like I’ve opened up a trap door beneath him. I laugh. What I’m actually supposed to do, however, is switch tools and drop a torch near several blocks of dynamite, setting off a chain reaction and blowing all the zombies to hell. I happily oblige. Shortly after the explosion, a virtual lacuna opens up in the coffee table; when I walk closer and peer downward, I see the zombies tumbling into a sea of lava.

I’m enchanted. I want to plop down, sit cross-legged on the floor and play for hours with the secret world that I just discovered, but the time allotted for the HoloBuilder demo is tragically brief. My Microsoft guide directs my attention elsewhere (and with the HoloLens, directing someone’s attention feels a bit like pointing them to the X on a treasure map). I find three blocks of dynamite affixed to the wall, almost like little curios. Naturally, I blow them up.

As the wall detonates, bats fly out from the breach directly towards my face. The Microsoft reps tell me that the HoloLens has spatial audio, “so we can hear holograms even when they are behind us.” Which, P.S., is a creepy thing to say.

More interesting than the bats, however, is what the explosion leaves behind: a digital breach in the wall that seems to open up a window into a whole other little world lined with veins of ore. I want to keep going, digging deep into the wall to find out what other treasures it contains, but the men from Microsoft politely inform me that there isn’t time. Reluctantly, I walk back to the chair where they will reclaim the HoloLens, dropping as many torches as I can en route with frantic Redrum gestures.

When I describe HoloBuilder to my roommate after the Microsoft event, she tells me about how much she loved to build vast Lego worlds as a child, her blocky civilization slowly spreading over couches, tables and every other surface in her home that she could find. Eventually, when her worlds grew too vast—and the danger of a bare foot stepping painfully on a Lego block too great—her parents would tell her it was time to pack them up and put them away.

John? That's not John.

“What if I could have built them digitally and kept them forever?” she asks. She’s not a gamer, but she seems excited too. And what if you could have shared them your friends? I ask. We agree that this would have been amazing. And, really, it still is. Minecraft has proved hugely popular for gamers young and older, experienced and inexperienced—and plenty of people who might not consider themselves gamers at all. If HoloBuilder can live up to the promise of its simple, endlessly engaging 2D sibling—and the promise of the HoloLens itself—this could be the game that makes it worth buying.

Augmented reality isn’t an experience that would mesh well with a lot of traditional games—I can’t imagine wanting to play Call of Duty on a HoloLens, for example. But there’s something about HoloBuilder that offers an almost archaeological sense of discovery, the same sense of magic that makes fantasy tales like Harry Potter so irresistible: the feeling that incredible and fantastical things might lie buried beneath the boring veneer of the “real” world, waiting to be discovered by someone with the power to see what others can’t.

Perhaps the most native HoloLens experience—or the one that demonstrates its unique abilities— is the holographic Skype call I make in another demo. The neat rectangle of his video feed follows me around wherever I look as though it’s tethered to my gaze, though I can pin it down to a static point with a quick airtap.

The man tells me that he can see everything that I see, and that he wants to help me install a light switch. There’s a mess of (real) wires coming out of the (real) wall, and an array of (real) tools on the table beside me. He instructs me to pick a voltage tester, and when I hesitate for a moment, he draws a bright green holographic arrow across my field of vision to point it out. A moment later he erases the arrow, and sketches out a quick diagram directly on the items he wants me to manipulate: which wires to connect, and where to connect them.

I’m reminded for a moment of the game Keep Talking and No One Explodes, where a player is given a manual for an explosive device and must verbally guide another playing wearing an Oculus Rift through defusing a bomb while a timer counts down. My helpful Skype friend floats around my field of vision like a heads-up display and prompts me with useful tips to solve this puzzle like a cross between Clippy and Navi. When we’re finished, he tells me to pick up a small controller and turn on the light. I push the button, and the circular lamp above me glows brightly in a gleaming ring.

“Is it real?” I ask. For a moment, I’m not even sure what I mean. Was the electrical circuit that I created real? Is the light shining down on me real? Was the experience real? The men from Microsoft assure me that it was.


  1. Tom De Roeck says:

    Cue eXistenZ.

    • pund says:

      exactly my thoughts :p
      “What is…existence?”

      • BattleXer says:

        A book by David Brin. And that was exactly my first thought when I heard of these goggles.
        I’m reading it at the moment, and it’s quite freaky to have Sci-Fi tools described in a Sci-Fi story about the (continued) existence of humankind become reality…

    • Echo_Hotel says:

      More precisely Dennou Coil.

  2. djbriandamage says:

    I watched the whole Microsoft webcast yesterday and sure was surprised by the announcement of this technology. It was a bit disingenuous to refer to this as something completely new – it’s Augmented Reality for which Jeri Ellsworth designed solutions at Valve until starting her own company dedicated to this.

    Still, it was a pretty magical demonstration. I’m genuinely surprised Facebook chose to invest in Oculus Rift, a wholly-immersive VR helmet, and not an AR solution like Microsoft’s; blocking out the world is less sociable, right?

    Not having seen the Minecraft demo I can’t really see how AR would be better than VR for an escapist medium like games. The more the merrier, though.

    P.s., reading RPS’s article and seeing “Have you played… Catacomb 3-D” on the sidebar I had to think about it for a second, and no, apparently no, I haven’t for real.

    • Geebs says:

      I bet valve’s top brass knew about this, hence the cancellation of Ellsworth’s project. Microsoft’s tech seems to be a hell of a lot better.

      • djbriandamage says:

        I listened to an interview with Jeri where she says her work and parting with Valve were not completely amicable. Valve didn’t give her the resources she needed to proceed. I think Valve just didn’t take this avenue very seriously. Plus they lost Michael Abrash to Oculus. Odd that Valve’s research seems to be focusing more on televisions than VR.

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          Eproxus says:

          Well, I can understand it. Enhancing gaming on TVs and taking the place of some consoles (hopfully) is something, if done correctly, Valve could gain from for a long time ahead. Going into experimental research on the other could of course be another gold mine, but it is also risky. If you look at Valve and Microsoft, Microsoft is really the company that is willing to take more risks (and also has the funds and economy to do so).

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          keithzg says:

          It’s a bit odd that she seems so chaffed with Valve, who gave over all rights to her for the tech she had developed while working there, which is a much nicer thing than I expect from a for-profit company in our society. I kindof suspect it’s partially that kind of attitude that had Valve feeling like parting ways with her in the first place (a completely flat organizational structure doesn’t work very well if things become acrimonious).

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I have a feeling facebook’s goals are more geared towards facilitating remote communications, for which VR may be more suitable. Think having virtual worlds where you get to meet up and chat with other people showing up as digital avatars, a bit like Second Life but without the sex and ugly visuals.

      • Emeraude says:

        a bit like Second Life but without the sex and ugly visuals

        I think you’re being waaaay too optimistic on that one. If people have any say about it, they’ll take it just as good/bad (your mileage may vary).

    • Blue_Lemming says:

      AR headset horror games in your own home could be quite literally pant soiling , for me that’s more than a full VR headset could ever offer.
      No that i am about to rush out and buy either.

      • skittles says:

        Except it can’t actually fully do this as it can only render directly in front of you restricting the FOV for the augmented bits. This is what makes the Oculus much much much better for traditional gaming. The Hololens isn’t really designed for gaming, or at least the usual sorts of gaming. I imagine it would be sublime for stuff like multiplayer digital tabletop stuff though.

  3. OneCardLarry says:

    Finally! The future!

  4. Terragot says:

    That 2.5 billion buyout is starting to look pretty damn savvy.

    • Goodtwist says:

      ‘sactly my thoughts

    • Drayk says:

      Yes… now I know why they bought it.
      If they can pull this out and it’s as amazing as they make it sound like it was a Genius move.

    • djbriandamage says:

      This solves their killer app problem upfront, but I can’t help but think that full-blown VR would be a better medium for an immersive virtual world.

      • Yargh says:

        I have to disagree here, I really don’t want to be completely isolated from the outside world, I’d much prefer to be able to play a game while remaining able to sense and interact with my real environment.

        If I wanted to be isolated, I’d aim towards a pod-based solution that would keep me safe during that time.

        • djbriandamage says:

          I know what you’re saying, but would a horror game be a better experience if your monitor was translucent and you could see what was behind it?

          • jenkins says:

            If the premise of the horror game was that it was taking place in my own home? I’m not sure I can imagine anything more terrifying.

          • dahools says:

            Would you dare open your wardrobe to see what was inside if you heard scratching or heavy breathing coming from behind you (the surround sound in the headset). I recon the right people could make horror absolutely terrifying using this.

        • gwathdring says:

          Also imagine being able to go over to someone’s house and seeing the little minecraft world they’ve built under their kitchen table. :D

  5. Craxel says:

    Were you all journo’s ordered to NOT report on any technical details? WTF is this thing, a light-field display? How does it do wireless positional tracking? How large was the FOV?

    • theSeekerr says:

      I doubt they were even given any technical details. Can’t leak what you don’t know.

      Things like the FOV, well, we’ll just have to tolerate descriptors like “narrow” for now.

      • Runty McTall says:

        On the FOV, I’m sure I read 120 x 120 somewhere else.

        Also, yeah, if every journalist is not revealing specs or tech, then probably it’s because none of them were given those details?

        • sonofsanta says:

          The 120 x 120 FOV is the area that the Kinect-like camera can see to track your fingers, I believe.

          From a Wired article:

          Project HoloLens is built, fittingly enough, around a set of holographic lenses. Each lens has three layers of glass—in blue, green, and red—full of microthin corrugated grooves that diffract light. There are multiple cameras at the front and sides of the device that do everything from head tracking to video capture. And it can see far and wide: The field of view spans 120 degrees by 120 degrees, significantly bigger than that of the Kinect camera. A “light engine” above the lenses projects light into the glasses, where it hits the grating and then volleys between the layers of glass millions of times. That process, along with input from the device’s myriad sensors, tricks the eye into perceiving the image as existing in the world beyond the lenses.

    • iainl says:

      The “holograms” are projected on the glass of the headset – imagine a transparent version of the Rift that you can see the Real World behind the screen strapped to your face. Presumably they’re using either Kinect or something based on it to help positional tracking of both your head and the rest of you, since some of the videos show people doing the whole Minority Report arm-waving thing, but I’m a bit more hazy on that half.

      What I’d like to know is if there’s an “Opaque Mode” possible on this thing – because buying two separate headsets, one for this and Rift as well, seems a pointless expense when I can’t think of a good technical reason why you couldn’t have one.

      • Geebs says:

        I guess you could put a bag over your head? Also works as an opaque mode for normal vision.

        • iainl says:

          Looking at reports more closely, it seems that (because this doesn’t have the Rift’s distorting lenses) the field of view is nowhere near as large, so I’m not sure it’s going to be as good for “pure” VR. But just the idea of being able to play Elite, driving games and so on and still be able to see your actual controller (particularly if you’ve got to do any typing) has to have certain advantages.

          Besides, you don’t need the massive resolution they’re talking about for the Consumer Rift if mega-detailed display text can still be on your real monitor.

      • Sam says:

        The Oculus has distorting lenses in front of each eye which this doesn’t have and would be hugely disorientating to look at the real world through.
        Oculus almost certainly has a higher resolution display than this. Making a transparent high resolution display would likely push the cost up to unreasonable levels.

        That’s just the most surface level differences. They’re both highly specialized devices, with far more engineering behind them than just a display and position tracking strapped to your face. Compare Google Cardboard to the Oculus.

        • SquidgyB says:

          Dealing with the distortion would be a rather simple process as long as you can either – whack another set of lenses on the front to “undistort” the view, or map the outputs of cameras strapped to the occulus through a filter which “occuluses” the image for display.

          This thing really does look like it could be *awesome* though.

          As long as we can get the RES high enough and the image clear and sharp (I too would love to know tech specs)… the potential for games like Elite, flight sims, race sims etc etc etc is phenomenal…

      • mattevansc3 says:

        I’ll try to find a link but not too long ago Microsoft patented a system for tracking eye movements. I wouldn’t be surprised if that tech was in this in so much as your eye direction helps highlight areas of importance.

    • zaphod42 says:

      Yeah something seems really fucking fishy about these articles. Ars Technica reported on it too, and neither they nor RPS said a single fucking word about the display. How is that possible? How can you review a new AR unit and not talk about the display? How good is the resolution? How much blur is there?

      With the Oculus Rift, all people could do is talk about the low resolution of the first model, and the motion sickness from lack of positional tracking.

      With HoloLens, the articles are “this is magic! It just works! Yaaaaaaay”. I’m calling total bullshit on this one.

      • C0llic says:

        I don’t think you’re being entirely fair. The fact is, kit like this has to be demoed (in person) to form an opinion. They may not have been given technical details, but frankly I trust this site to give an honest opinion about whether they like the tech and if they feel it has promise.

      • try2bcool69 says:

        Is this your first time visiting this site? This is how they roll around here, touchy-feely, not techy-spec-y.

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        NationOfThizzlam says:

        Yes, really fishy. It’s a conspiracy! They must have been paid to write glowing reviews of a prototype demo.

        edit: Wrote this comment before I saw the rash of additional conspiracy-mongering below. Do you people even listen to yourselves sometimes?

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        Phasma Felis says:

        A reasonable, non-paranoid person might assume that they didn’t talk about how shitty the display is because the display isn’t shitty.

    • Twitchity says:

      If I had to guess — and we have to guess — I’d assume we’re looking at dual transparent 1280×720 displays, with tracking software employing two cameras, a 3-axis IMU, GPS, pressure and barometric sensors, two mics, and a light sensor.

      In other words, it’s tech derived from the IP MSFT bought earlier this year from Osterhout Design Group (which has partnered with USMC’s Tactical Cyber to do warfighter AR), possibly running on a proprietary OS (ODG uses a bespoke Android build, which I doubt Redmond could swallow) and adding new image analysis and compositing algorithms for the “holographic” feature set. The headset above is very similar in appearance to their mil-spec R-6 glasses, less the polarized lenses.

    • try2bcool69 says:

      I’m not sure the FOV would be much of an issue with this type of thing since it blends the rendered parts into the real world around you. It’s not necessary to have your entire FOV blocked to feel like you’re part of it. It’s immersive in a wholly different way than Oculus. The resolution is also not as important, since it’s a projected image instead of a backlit lcd. The light blends together smoothly to produce a softer, more natural image than current LCD/OLED/etc technology is capable of. Since it’s only being projected right in front of your eyes, it should be as bright and clear as anything around you.

  6. Crafter says:

    The execution will need to be perfect for this kind of project to work.
    Right now we only have a nice promo video.
    Considering the state of the art, it is safe to assume that voice commands are not yet good enough in order to be used as a reliable input method.

    If it works, welcome to the future. I have little hope to see this on OsX or Linux though :(

    • JonWood says:

      I’d have been equally dismissive of the voice controls until very recently, when I set up Voice Attack for Elite: Dangerous. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be able to interpret you chatting to it in English with decent results, but these days computers are incredibly good at picking up particular keywords given very little training.

      • Crafter says:

        Picking up a keyword does indeed work fairly well.
        Interacting with Siri / Google Now / Cortana is supposed to be a natural chat though, and this is the intersection of several hard problems for which we don’t have good solutions yet, even taken individually.
        I don’t know where Hololens will fall in this spectrum though.

        • P.Funk says:

          If you look at the logic of it the programs don’t need to understand what you’re saying word for word, it just has to be looking out for keywords in a phrase structure. So the logic would be branching. Questions would have to begin with clear query terms and then the scripting for the voice recognition would have it filter for certain key words that exist for the available features.

          I’m sure right now the new voice stuff won’t respond to “Cortana I was wondering if there’s been any advances in cold fusion technology in recent years” but probably will respond to “Cortana?” “Yes Dave” “Search for news about Cold Fusion” and the logic would just filter everything that isn’t “Search, News, Cold Fusion”.

          Microsoft seems to have stopped developing voice activation in recent years with the inbuilt windows voice recognition software basically being the exact same going all the way back to Vista. I wonder if the new stuff is based on the current stuff in Windows or if they’re doing more. They can certainly script what we have to work pretty well, but there are some serious bugs in it that simply weren’t fixed because of the obvious stop to work on the program.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            It will respond exactly to a question like that but due to the specialist nature of the question it will give you a web search answer.

            If you asked it less specialist questions such as;
            “Do I need to take an umbrella with me?”
            “Who’s going to win in the game between the Swans and Arsenal?”
            “How long will it take me to get home?”
            Then you would be presented with an actual answer.

          • Crafter says:

            by hard problems, I meant : speech recognition, internationalization and machine learning/IA.
            We don’t have perfect solutions for any of those, so a complex request like the one you gave has very high chances to fail at one or more points in its treatment.

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      Henke says:

      Live demonstration: link to youtube.com

      Voice commands seem to work fine.

  7. grable says:

    Calling this holographic is bullshit! its just projected on a transparent screen..
    Sorry microsoft, but when your guy said that a CPU and a GPU was not enough, and you needed that revolutionary Holographic processor, i knew you were full of shit.

    • Malcolm says:

      Such anger – did Microsoft insult your mother?

      It’s clearly not a hologram in the traditional sense, as that wouldn’t need a headset. But given that the main property of holograms is the reconstruction of the light emitted from a three dimensional object the term doesn’t seem wholly inappropriate given what they appear to have achieved.

      The “Holographic processor” is most likely a bespoke accelerator for the no-doubt complex mathematical operations required to perform such feats in realtime. It sounds like an evolution of the Kinect technology which also had a bespoke accelerator in some of its guises (although I think the original Kinect camera offloaded most processing to the host for cost reasons, albeit at a non-trivial performance cost for the utilising software)

      • grable says:

        And thats my point. Its not any kind of revolution. Not the device, Not the screen, Not the extra processor for some special calculations.
        What pissed me off was the whole angle that this was NEW and NOT like all the other crappy VR/AR devices.. but HOLOGRAPHIC!!!111

        Yeah, i dont handle marketing speak very well.. but then i dont like getting lied to either.

        • Ostymandias says:

          I read the last bit of your comment as “I don’t like getting laid either.”


      • AyeBraine says:

        Why do you say that true holograms wouldn’t need a headset? True holograms are reconstructions of light field from 3D objects, but they don’t “hang in the air” like in sci-fi. They need actual solid prints (or eventually displays), that to the eye look like “windows” through which you can see virtual objects situated behind.

        AFAIK, MIT’s first holographic diplays are cubic in dimensions (like 2,5 cm?), but I think it has to do more with the need for certain volume of the imaging medium… and anyways, these “hard” displays are still needed to display the picture. So no, it’s not “floor-mounted crystals projecting objects into thin air”. At least yet.

  8. Cinek says:

    So… a few questions:

    – Just how visible is a real world through the 3D projection?
    – How much brighter is 3D projection from what you see in real world through these glasses?
    – Lag? How does it react to quick head rotation, is it holding objects where they’re suppose to be or are they “loosing ground”?
    – Does it support a full range of motions?
    – How is it precise in tracking motion? Is it prone to loosing orientation after few quick moves?
    – Field of view?

    • RARARA says:

      On lag…

      “Despite augmented reality’s reputation for faint, shuddering images, everything I was seeing through the HoloLens was surprisingly crisp and offered little lag.”

    • Crafter says:

      no comments on these points right now.
      Either they want to just build the hype and really show the product when it will approach its release date or it is just not that great (yet).

      • Caleo says:

        Uh, there are actually quiet a few pre/reviews of the demo hardware they have.. and they’re generally pretty positive.

        • Crafter says:

          I have only seen simulated demos and a single clunky live demo.
          I have no doubt that the technology is very promising, but right now there are many unknown variables.

  9. amateurviking says:

    Surprised about how much I dig this.

  10. ukpanik says:

    Is this article real, I ask.

    • zaphod42 says:

      I’m calling bullshit. The whole thing reads like it was written by MS’ PR team. There’s no mention of the resolution, latency, response times, clarity, blurriness, etc. of the display AT ALL.

      Something’s really fishy about this article and I don’t like it.

      • dysomniak says:

        Yeah, this whole article reeks of flim-flam, not unlike the Wired piece that went up yesterday. Does Laura Hudson have any experience with this kind of hardware demo? It seems the only thing she’s written for RPS before is a review of Hatoful Boyfriend, which would hardly prepare a person to critically assess what was clearly a heavily guided and curated demonstration of a product that I would bet dollars to donuts fails to live up to the hype.

      • mattlambertson says:

        100% agree. 3 articles read and I still can’t even figure out what the thing IS.

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        Henke says:

        Think you might’ve missed this part: “Despite augmented reality’s reputation for faint, shuddering images, everything I was seeing through the HoloLens was surprisingly crisp and offered little lag.” That’s very subjective of course, presumably they didn’t have access to resolution specs and an FPS counter.

        The live demo gives you a better impression of how it actually looks and performs tho: link to youtube.com

      • Crafter says:

        it does look like a press operation with very little reporting going on..
        This is a nice teaser for this platform, we just have to wait for real in depth articles.

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    Oakreef says:

    Dammit RPS stop making me want to spend money :(

  12. Gibster says:


    Is what you described all real? Of so I believe the future has arived and I want one of those things.

  13. Tom De Roeck says:

    Playing Take On Mars with this has to be surreal.

  14. RARARA says:

    That’s… pretty neat.

  15. mattevansc3 says:

    Of all the possible games that could use this I’m quite sad in thinking this would be awesome with Hidden Object games or even Point and Click adventures.

    • Oozo says:

      No reason for being sad. It’s more that this could make Hidden Object games so much more exciting.

      (Seriously, combine them with the puzzle box-school of design à la The Room and dexterity-based challenges like that one iPad game that has you trying to disarm spike-infused traps, and you have the potential for an awesome action archeologue/D&D rogue-experience.)

    • dahools says:

      The possibilities would be endless. You could play broken sword in your own home exploring different rooms to find clues for the next piece of the puzzle.

      Even playing on your PC you could have World Map snapped to the side of your monitor for your open world games, inventories/ crafting,recipe lists, anything you can think of in any game that normally involves you leaving the main game screen or opening up a window within could be interactively projected around you while your main focus stays on the game.

      Driving games would be ace, plonk your steering wheel on your dining table and bang all of a sudden your in a soft top driving down the riviera checking out the view, (admittedly sports cars don’t have a plastic wheels with logitec written on them but you get the idea. )

  16. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    With all this VR and AR stuff coming out recently, the chances of at least one of them being decent have increased tremendously!

  17. Synesthesia says:

    Ok, i’m starting to get pretty excited about this. It’s happenning guys! We will see this happen! I couldn’t be happier.

    • neckro23 says:

      I’m having a hard time figuring out the muted, skeptical reaction to this too. This shit is amazing if it really works.

      Even if Microsoft’s implementation of AR turns out to be kinda lame, having such a major player throwing their weight behind this will surely inspire competition.

      I have a feeling that it really does work as advertised, though. I’ve been really impressed by the “new” Microsoft lately — Satya Nadella seems to know what he’s doing.

      • P.Funk says:

        I think its just the modern cynicism over the hype machine output that surrounds anything and everything.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Pretty much, yes. I’d still rather not complain until i have a reason to.

      • Emeraude says:

        Amazing or not, I don’t really see this as particularly desirable, that’s the thing as fr as I’m concerned.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Yeah, I don’t want to ascribe too much to Ballmer’s departure (humans are all too prone to making quick associations), but it really does feel like Microsoft has shifted gears and changed its outlook and goals. I’m a lot more interested in many of their projects than I have for a very long time.

        • Emeraude says:

          Ballmer’s departure can’t have hurt for sure, whatever came out of it.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Considering how many leaks you get prior to press announcements the simple fact that Microsoft managed to pull out not one but two “One more thing” moments during that conference is quite exciting from a tech perspective.

  18. zaphod42 says:

    You got to play with HoloLens, and you write up a review, and nowhere in the ENTIRE thing do you even mention or remotely touch on what the resolution is like, the clarity of the image, the accuracy of the motion recognition, nothing like that.

    How much were you guys paid by MS, or how heavily was this article edited by MS?

    Either you’re shilling for MS or you’re doing a really, really horrible job of reporting on the only things people really want to know about HoloLens right now. I don’t understand.

    • Srekel says:

      Yes because it’s much more likely that this article is part of a conspiracy and that MS are paying RPS superlots of money to write this article, than that maybe Laura wasn’t told the specs, or that she wanted to just write about the experience of trying it out rather than writing a technical piece on the hardware’s potentially temporary specs.

      • zaphod42 says:

        Every single person who reviewed the DK1 or DK2 oculus rift spent half their review talking about the quality of the display and the resolution.

        How is it possible that not a single reviewer has even MENTIONED the display on the HoloLens in at least a minor way? Not even something like “I don’t know what resolution it is, but its very clear” or “Sometimes blurry, but not a big issue”

        No, there’s not even a single comment on the display! That’s just insanity. There has to be some kind of a journalistic embargo against discussing the tech, at the very least. Other reviewers mention that MS removed the reviewers cellphones and cameras even, I don’t think its too hard to assume they had to sign some kind of legal agreement.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          Having a writer say they struggled to differentiate between reality and imagery tells me about the display than cold facts like resolution.

          • dysomniak says:

            Actually I think that sort of obvious hyberbole says a lot more about the writers credibility than any technical aspect. What’s more likely, that this device somehow produces an image so realistic it can’t be distinguished from real life (something no existing tech comes anywhere close to), or that she’s exaggerating?

        • Dave L. says:

          Simple answer: It’s a lot harder to notice a screen door effect when the display is transparent and has a limited FOV than when the display is opaque and takes up your entire field of view.

          Engadget also had a short piece about how everyone they asked about the specs of the device were completely mum about what they were, since it’s still a super early prototype complete with exposed circuit boards.

      • Laura Hudson says:

        Indeed. While I wasn’t given details about the display first-hand, Wired is reporting that “the depth camera has a field of vision that spans 120 by 120 degrees.” I believe that’s all the information we have at this point. link to wired.com

        If it makes people feel better, here’s an Engadget article about how little anyone knows: link to engadget.com

    • KillahMate says:

      You know, if you (and everybody else who does this everywhere all the time) stopped to think about it for a minute, maybe you’d notice how incredibly insulting your ‘paid by MS’ line is. It’s not cool to walk into a professional journalist’s comments and casually accuse them of being a bribed hack. You’re, in fact, being a massive dick. Don’t be a massive dick.

  19. Zenicetus says:

    I think this has tremendous potential for gaming, especially if they can work out a user-controlled opacity so the amount of real world can be adjusted. There will always be people who want full immersion with something like the Rift, but the potential audience is probably far wider for a device that doesn’t lock you in completely.

    Strategy games like Endless Legend and RPG’s like Wasteland 2 or Divinity OS already look like you’re staring at miniatures on a tabletop. Games like that could be amazing in 3D with selective opacity so you still have a sense of your surroundings. The phone could ring, you could hit Pause and brighten up the real world view to answer it, then go back to the game without removing it from your head.

    On the other hand…. I’m not thrilled with Microsoft being a gatekeeper for content. The Rift seems positioned as just another peripheral, that games can decide to support or not. I can’t see Microsoft taking that approach.

    • dahools says:

      I think you are trying to get people back into games workshop again. It would be like all the gameplay with none of the painting!

  20. hotmaildidntwork says:

    Certainly Laura, certainly. But how many graphics does it have?

  21. Rikard Peterson says:

    If that could lead to an intuitive interface for 3d modelling, I’d be quite interested. I’ve tried to get into that a few times – even bought an old version of 3ds Max once, while at school so that I could get a student discount – but never got far. It’s so much easier to sculpt in snow (hooray for winter!) or other physical materials. Or draw in 2d with my Wacom tablet.

  22. Luke says:

    So it’s the headset from a sega lock-on?

  23. Scandalon says:

    “What did you expect, tech-specs from Wimmins?”

    Seriously folks, loosen the tin-foil hats a bit and see how it shakes out. (Obviously the specs are interesting to many of us, and we’re curious, but *sheesh*….)

  24. popedoo says:

    Thanks for this.

    You mentioned COD. Well how about Battlefield? The commander could play on Hololens and the squad on Oculus. :)

  25. Stevostin says:

    This is just… wow. Seems at least as big as iPhone. Probably bigger.

  26. sapien82 says:

    So where is the holographic technology Microsoft, you cant state that it uses holograms when its augmented reality !

    Why have they done this ?

  27. OscarWilde1854 says:

    Guess we know why Microsoft bought Minecraft now… If it works even half as well as the video I would love it. Building a fortress in your living room and then being able to walk around it…. That’d be amazing!

  28. cthulhie says:

    Gibson’s Virtual Light was always my favorite. Now if only there were an application to transform me into a sassy bike messenger being chased around California.

    Seriously, this is exactly what I’ve been saying I want–not so obscuring and disorienting as an Oculus Rift, nor unintrusive as Google Glass. I want the in-between–the non-noise-canceling headphones that give me music but allow me to heard cars about to drive over me. Even if it weren’t socially awkward, I would never wear a Rift in public because I don’t trust the world enough to shut it out. But this mid-point is just fine by me.

  29. geldonyetich says:

    Whether or not you agree this qualifies as true holograms or not, this is a necessary step, and I hope that enough people give the HoloLens support that this new medium of computing catches on.

    The main problem right now is a lot of people are looking at this and thinking it’s a gimmick, too good to be true. If they can’t get over that, potential investors in holographic technology are going to be spooked, so we’re not going to have our holograms this decade, maybe next decade.

    So I have pretty good reason to hope that the HoloLens does well.

    • aoanla says:

      Well, it *doesn’t* qualify as “true holograms”, given that they’re not reconstructions of a light-field (there’s almost certainly no depth in the projections), and rather just positionally-updated-flat projections onto an augmented reality set.

      That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting, but it does mean that Microsoft are knowingly inflating the capabilities of their device (presumably because they want it to look more impressive than the Rift).

      • AyeBraine says:

        You have to remember about depth as in the case of focus distance. For example, red-dot and holographic gun sights (and earlier on simple collimator sights) are devices that project the reticle near your eye, but at infinity focal distance – at least that’s the way I understand it or can express it. So it’s at the very least not just a “projection on a flat surface”, semi-transparent or not, but a collimated or somesuch projection. This is way different from a normal screen (like in VR systems), and likely a huge hurdle to overcome considering the stated capabilities of HoloLens.

  30. Duke Flipside says:

    …but will it fit over my glasses?

  31. Mint says:

    This is exactly what magicleap has been working on since 2011

    link to magicleap.com
    nice website btw

    link to gizmodo.com

    MS typically buys most of their new tech so i wonder.