While virtual reality will soon be in the hands and eyes of folks at home – pre-orders just opened for the HTC Vive, to ship in April, and the Oculus Rift launches at the end of this month – augmented reality goggles are a bit further out. While VR replaces your vision with a computer-generated world, AR is more of an overlay, making computer graphics appear in our world. Microsoft are preparing to launch the first version of their ‘HoloLens’ AR glasses to developers for $3,000, shipping on March 30th, and have shown off the games and software coming with that.
The HoloLens Development Edition is initially only for devs in the USA and Canada. And to be clear, that’s $3,000 for a model very much not intended for public use. This is for software developers to poke around and see what uses it can have – something Microsoft have seemed a bit hazy on.
The Development Edition will ship with a few bits of software. HoloStudio is a 3D package which lets folks build 3D models before their eyes ‘in’ the real world at real-world scale, controlling it with gestures, gazes, and voice commands. See a HoloStudio video over here. Microsoft have also whipped up a special version of Skype which lets folks share their augmented reality view and have others add to it, as you can see in this vid. They’ve also got HoloTour, which lets you wander around 3D views of scenes.
As for gaming on HoloLens, I do kinda like the look of Fragments. It’s a crime thriller bringing characters into your surroundings, turning your home into game levels. I’d have a play of that at a show, sure:
Then there’s Young Conker, turning bits of the world around you into levels for bad platforming. Microsoft just won’t let Conker die.
It looks rubbish, but hey, it’s a tech demo. Also a bit boring is RoboRaid, which invades your space with robots for FPS zapping:
And they’ve made Actiongram for storytelling in “mixed reality videos”.
It’s still not really clear how these will look in reality – we’ve mostly seen mockups so far.
A lot of these look like ideas we saw on AR phone apps and PlayStation Vita games, before those vanished because the novelty wore off real quick. Remember the AR craze of 2012? No, probably not.
But hey, the point of a Development Edition is to get more people working on software for AR glasses, figuring out what it’s useful for and who MS might sell it to. Clearly they don’t expect folks at home will be paying $3,000 to play bad video games.
I’d probably use AR glasses to make Sonic the Hedgehog stand just in the corner of my vision, tapping his foot impatiently. Adding a sense of urgency to my life, y’know. Or maybe an AR version of Sonic Movie Maker.