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    HoloLens: The Future of Gaming

    Holographic technology is here at last, and it’s going to bring games out of the TV screen and into your actual real-life living room. Yep, you read that right Microsoft recently demoed its vision of next-generation computing, and it all revolves around holograms. HoloLens is the name given to the headset, which projects 3D images onto the world around you, and lets you interact with them with simple gestures and voice commands.

    If this sounds like something out of science fiction, you’d be right. Similar ideas have been portrayed in Star Trek, Star Wars, and more recently in the 2013 film Her. In that movie, a projector created a 3D world in the player’s apartment and let them walk with an avatar through a rich game world that came alive around them. But this is much more real than a film. And if Microsoft manages to pull holographic computing off successfully, it could be a huge leap forward for gaming.


    THE POSSIBILITIES
    The potential of this kind of device in gaming is enormous. Microsoft made clear in its announcement that the HoloLens is powered by the new Windows 10 system, but with that update integrating Xbox gaming into the PC operating system more than ever before, there’s plenty of room for crossover between a PC and an Xbox. During the announcement event, one of Microsoft’s hardware demos showed a Minecraft-style game. For the player, the game level was projected onto the world around them. Tables and sofas became part of the landscape, with mountains, trees and rocks literally appearing around them. Animals and enemies wandered around their feet, ready to be poked and prodded. But more impressively, blocks of TNT were lying around, ready for you to grab. These blocks could be flung at walls or dropped onto the floor. When they exploded, they seemed to blow a hole in your actual wall, and revealed a world behind the world. You could peer through and HoloLens gave you the chance to look at an area you’d never seen before.

    This was, of course, just an early tech demo, but if you think about what this could do for games, it’s incredibly exciting. Imagine ducking behind your sofa which is a rock in your game and popping up to shoot enemies across your room. Oh, and your room is actually a jungle. As you duck, the spatial sound system simulates bullets flying past your head, and holographic shards of rock fall around you as the bullets ricochet off your cover.
    “Your radar and ammo could float in front of your eyes like you were wearing Master Chief’s helmet”
    If that sounds like a little too much effort, instead imagine HoloLens acting as your HUD for Halo. Your radar, overshield and ammo could all sit floating in front of your eyes as if you were wearing Master Chief’s helmet. You have to admit, that sounds like a pretty cool way of making every player feel like they’re inside the game.

    But perhaps more exciting is the diverse kind of games that developers could create for the system. With a new canvas to work on, there are all kinds of unique ideas that could be tried. You could play hide and seek with a character in your front room, watching for flashes of colour or footsteps as a character darts from place to place. Or imagine pairing HoloLens with Kinect. With a combination of the two you could become a monster in a game, with skyscrapers and cities projected around you to destroy. As you stomped around the room, Kinect would track your movements, and HoloLens would create the game world, with fighter jets flying around your head and tiny people running for cover.

    If you don’t want to be so active, that’s no problem HoloLens can turn put a TV screen on any wall. All you would need is a controller and a headset and you could play anywhere without needing a TV.

    THE INEVITABLE ‘BUT…’
    You can’t deny that the potential of this project is exciting, but don’t expect to be playing holographic games this time next year. HoloLens is still in the early stages of development the demo units that showed off the Minecraft level included a bulky battery pack that users had to carry. There’s obviously still a lot of work for Microsoft to do to get the whole thing finished up and ready for the world, and it’s going to take some time.

    The battery will, perhaps, be the biggest hurdle. If HoloLens is entirely autonomous and doesn’t require wires, it will need one heck of a battery to keep it running for more than a couple of hours. Getting the balance right between weight and power is essential; it could be incredibly light but only work for two hours, or it could last for days but be so heavy that it becomes uncomfortable after half an hour.
    “If Microsoft can pull off holograms successfully, it could be a huge leap forward gaming”
    Once that’s right, there’s the question of cost. With so much technology packed into such a small space, it certainly won’t be cheap. And, while HoloLens may include some powerful computing power, it probably won’t have enough graphical grunt for Xbox One games. So would it be an accessory? Probably. And as Microsoft knows from its experience with Kinect, selling an expensive (and optional) accessory doesn’t ensure success. Is HoloLens destined to become just another gimmick?

    Or, even worse, could it become an incredibly niche product? There are a few VR headsets available right now, but none of them are mainstream by any means. Yes, most of them are still in development, but the demand for them simply isn’t that high. We would argue that HoloLens has much potential than the likes of Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus, simply thanks to the way it works with the world around you. But even when those two systems are released, sales are a completely different story. Can HoloLens buck the trend, or will it simply be another plaything of the rich gamer? Would it have a genuine place in your gaming collection?  

    THE BOTTOM LINE
    Right now it’s hard to say. As we’ve said several times so far, the system undoubtedly has a huge amount of potential. We’re sure that developers could come up with some absolutely stunning ideas to push HoloLens into the homes of millions of gamers. If Microsoft sell it as an accessory to the Xbox One, it would offer something that no other gaming system has ever managed holographic gaming.

    Sure, there are plenty of hurdles. Price. Battery life. Graphical power. But if Microsoft gets the balance right, this could be the biggest leap in gaming that we’ve seen since the jump into true 3D.

    GAMES WE WANT TO SEE ON HOLOLENS

    VIVA PIÑATA
    This world-management game would be ideal for HoloLens. Your floor could become the garden, with piñatas wandering around at your feet as you tend to their needs. It’s a perfect fit.

    MICRO MACHINES
    This could be the perfect time for a revival of this franchise. The game focused on racing around real surfaces imaging building your own track on your coffee table, then playing it in full 3D.

    HALO
    When you have a holographic headset, why wouldn't it become the inside of Master Chief’s helmet? HoloLens could bring the Halo HUD to life brilliantly.

    XCOM
    The XCOM series has always been about tactical gameplay, getting your team perfectly positioned. Imagine the game map on your floor, with you planning out moves as you walk around.

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