Microsoft recently unveiled their “HoloLens” with a video showing some of its potential uses. The idea is that their device will allow holograms to be shown in our living room as (more) concrete representations of what we’d otherwise be looking at on a computer screen. This is referred to as augmented reality, although some are also calling it mixed reality. What does the Microsoft HoloLens mean for gaming? Should we be excited for it – will this technology revolutionize our favorite games?
Let me clarify: This technology looks amazing, like the ultimate fulfillment of all those sci-fi dreamworlds that we see in television and movies. How many of us didn’t immediately think of “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” or some kind of “star” adventure when we saw people pushing at buttons in the air?
My reluctance to get excited is the same reason I don’t care about google glass: The technology simply isn’t there yet. Microsoft may roll out a functioning HoloLens unit, but I regret to inform people lining up to buy it that it’s going to be awhile before they optimize it and truly make it something amazing. It will happen, but will it happen this year? Next year? Highly doubtful on both accounts; in my opinion, it will be more like 5-10 years.
One could see many interesting and novel uses if they incorporate this technology into video games – in fact, the trailer shows a bit of Minecraft – but one must wonder how much development will be involved with such a feat. Everyone who owns a PS4 or Xbox One realizes that there is a learning curve for developers using a new piece of hardware, and that it takes time for them to understand how to best utilize new technology. That’s why, despite having significantly improved hardware, “next-gen” systems often look just slightly improved when compared to their previous generation for the first year of their existence. There have been some neat ideas of what could be done with a HoloLens (besides Minecraft, a Youtube comment suggested a zombie game with treadmills), but it will take time to implement.
I can’t emphasize enough that (especially for non-Microsoft developed games) this technology has a long way to go before hitting the shelves in a commercially useful model for gaming. Think about virtual reality. We have been hearing about VR seemingly forever, but while some neat game demos and ideas are starting to emerge, we’re still waiting to see a consumer-friendly model that works on more than a handful of games.
Does this mean you shouldn’t be excited about the possibility of punching buttons in the air to make changes in your work, or using this device as an innovation for video games? Not necessarily. Just make sure you put it in perspective – it’s going to be awhile before that AAA HoloLens game makes its debut.