On Wednesday during its press briefing, Microsoft introduced HoloLens (opens in new tab), a standalone headset that provides an augmented reality experience by projecting high-definition holograms into the physical world that only the wearer can see.
This is in contrast to the Oculus Rift, which is focused on immersing users into a virtual world completely removed from the real one. Microsoft's solution appears to be more mainstream, aimed at engineers, designers, scientists and general consumers who are looking for ways to make their jobs and everyday tasks easier.
But what about gaming? Microsoft's head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, answered that question during an interview roundtable shortly after the HoloLens reveal. But first, he made it clear that HoloLens needs to remain as a standalone device. However, like other devices on the market (smartphones, tablets, and so on), gaming will likely become an important money generator for HoloLens.
"I think gaming will be important. Specific scenarios with the Xbox we're thinking hard about where people could ask about streaming solutions, use it as a display for my Xbox, we don't have answers for any of those things," Spencer admitted.
He went on to give a thumbs up for some of the virtual reality solutions currently in the works such as the Oculus Rift and Morpheus. However, the company doesn't plan to create a solution that will directly compete with those devices; HoloLens is the only headset Microsoft is planning to release.
"I love the virtual reality stuff that's out there, Morpheus, Oculus, I think they're doing great work and I've said it over and over, I just love that our industry continues to push innovation forward," he said. "I've always applauded Sony and Oculus and what they've created. I think this is something different."
During the press briefing, the standalone augmented reality headset came packed with a demo called Holobuilder, a game inspired by Minecraft that allows players to build and destroy creations in any room in the real world (shown above). Other demos included a visit to Mars, using Skype to fix a sink, and using HoloStudio to create 3D images using virtual objects.
As for specs, Microsoft's HoloLens features a new processor called the holographic processing unit, or the HPU. "The HPU gives us the ability to understand where you're looking, to understand your gestures, to understand your voice, to spatially map your environment, to run without wires ... all in real-time," Microsoft previously told GameSpot. This new chip will work alongside the built-in CPU and GPU.
Will Microsoft's HoloLens succeed? That depends on the price and the content. Spencer seemed to suggest that eventually the augmented reality headset will work with the Xbox One and Windows 10, but time will only tell in regards to how far that support will go. Honestly, it's an intriguing device, one we can't wait to get our hands on when it's finally released.