Ask a Dork: Project HoloLens + AR Gaming

hololens

“Now that MS has revealed their AR-helmet, what do you think of the tech? And do you think VR or AR has a better chance of being a game-changer for gaming?”

I’m hesitant to trust the Project HoloLens concept video. I know a handful of journalists have tried the new Augmented Reality (AR) “hologram” device and general consensus among them is positive, but still – it’s hard to get too invested after the hyperbole Microsoft tried to hock with the Project Natal (Kinect) promotional video.

Do you remember that? None of what was shown in that video ended up working as intended in the final product, or even being used at all. There were too many variables, including body type, which stopped the device from ever achieving the hype. Really, the two things Kinect ever worked well for were dancing games and fitness “games.” Other uses suffered from horrible and unintuitive controls.

To be fair, I appreciate that HoloLens is being positioned to be more practical than Kinect or even Google Glass ever was. Users are expected to wear the device for a limited period of time (as opposed to all day), and focus on solving real world problems with the technology. Maybe that alone will maintain its relevance for some time. Still, PR currently seems more focused on “holograms” than real world augmented reality purposes.

This device does not generate holograms. At least, not the ones we’ve come to expect from science fiction. HoloLens is about changing the way we see the real world using the same kind of augmented reality technology that was packaged with the Nintendo 3DS, and to that end it certainly might bear some degree of practicality. Does that mean it will be a game changer though?

What will define HoloLens’ long term success will be its developer support. Outside of Microsoft’s Skype and Minecraft, which I still don’t believe will work well on my coffee table, what can we expect to come to this device in terms of apps and features? I suppose I could see it possibly having pharmaceutical and medical applications, as well as military if the conceptual technology actually works well. And that’s a great thing. It doesn’t, however, seem as practical for the common consumer.

What exactly would you use this for at home? Would you cook a turkey with floating instructions? Would you crack-fill a wall with a step-by-step guide of how to putty? I just don’t know. Microsoft needs to stop dreaming big and flaunting all possible applications of this technology and focus on driving real world applications. We need tangible, demonstrable results and we need a lot of them to create added value. Otherwise, this device won’t be worth buying and will likely head towards the same tragic fate as Kinect.

In terms of what will be a game changer for gaming, VR or AR, I would have to say neither. Virtual Reality devices like the Oculus Rift have been around since the late 80s and they have never had the right control inputs to make the experience justifiably immersive. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, is just that: reality with floating virtual objects. I don’t think that makes for a good game. In terms of video gaming, both of these technologies feel like passing fads. I wouldn’t bank on either of them staying relevant or changing anything.

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