On Monday, I started to think I might be wrong about HoloLens. It was in the midst of Microsoft's E3 press conference--we were treated to an extensive live demo of the device which even a jaded cynic like myself admitted was pretty impressive. There we were, watching a man literally stare at a blank table. Except, of course, HoloLens revealed an entire holographic Minecraft world sitting in front of him. You could see it too, if only you were wearing HoloLens!
It looked fantastic. Much better than CastAR and some of the other similar devices I've used.
Looks can be deceiving, though.
I don't mean to imply Microsoft's E3 demo was intentionally misleading. I mean, maybe it was, but that's not really a major concern of mine. I'm not here to blow a whistle or anything.
But on Wednesday I finally got to try out HoloLens myself, courtesy of a Microsoft demo it's calling the "Halo 5: Guardians Experience." Suffice it to say my HoloLens experience was quite a bit different from what we saw onstage.
First of all, let me say that the set Microsoft built for this demo was pretty spectacular all on its own. The whole demo took place in a series of rooms designed to look like part of a UNSC ship, and for good reason: The demo is set up as a "briefing," with a virtual commander laying out intelligence on an upcoming battle (which was, in fact, a standard Halo multiplayer match after the HoloLens portion wrapped up).
Basically we went into the first room, told the technician our IPD (interpupillary distance), put on the headset, and then...reality became augmented.
There were a few pieces to the demo. First was a navigation aspect, with the headset putting an "Objective Marker" into the world for you to walk towards. Second was a brief taste of the technology itself, which had us staring through a window and into a miniature UNSC hangar bay--when, in reality, we were staring at a blank wall. I swear, augmented reality will make lunatics of us all.
The lengthiest part of the demo was the briefing itself. Here, we gathered around a blank table--sensing a pattern here?--and basically received our orders. The table came alive with various "holograms," showing us the map's terrain, enemy emplacements, et cetera.
And I will say this: It was really cool. The objects had a certain Tron vibe to them, a made-from-light quality, but still seemed real enough to reach out and touch. I can certainly envision augmented reality taking off in a big way once the tech is good enough.
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