An Unexpected Surprise: 'Halo 5' And HoloLens

Ever since its initial reveal in January, we've been closely following the progress of Microsoft's HoloLens. Our hands-on experience earlier this year at BUILD provided us with a glimpse of its potential, but at its current stage of development, there was very little to offer.

However, that didn't stop the company from showing off HoloLens in gaming scenarios at E3, specifically with an onstage demo with Minecraft that received waves of "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. Considering the high level of secrecy surrounding HoloLens from our previous interaction with it, I didn't expect to see it again after the Xbox event. But at the Halo 5: Guardians demo featuring the Warzone multiplayer, it was HoloLens that greeted players before they tried the new multiplayer feature.


The night before I tried HoloLens, I heard some rumors about it being used for Halo. I immediately dismissed them because the first time I played the Warzone multiplayer game, we only saw a brief video about how to play the game.

However, when I was in line again for the game at Microsoft's E3 booth, there was an employee with a device that measured my eye width. He then wrote it on a card, handed it to me, and told me to give that number to the people inside. Once we were allowed to go inside the demo area, I found out the card's purpose: HoloLens.

In the dimly lit room, a few employees were dressed in white lab coats. They gave us a brief overview of how to put on HoloLens, and then in groups of two, we were fitted with our own HoloLens to use. When it was my turn to put it on, I gave the number to the "lab technicians," and one handed me Microsoft's prototype device.

That "Whoa" Moment

After a few seconds of calibration with the software, I was told to stand and then head to my right, where a marker would tell me where to go. Sure enough, HoloLens provided me with a digital mark that counted down the distance left to reach it. It reminded me of a custom waypoint that you could place at any location in games, but this seemed to invade the real world without it actually being there.

Once I reached the marker, I turned right, where another person told me to look at the wall to my left. Again, for someone not using HoloLens, it would appear to just be a blank section of the wall. For me, it was a small window into a vast spaceship hangar. Crews were putting finishing touches on a ship or running around trying to grab more parts. Additionally, other ships were flying in and out of the hangar, once again keeping that entire atmosphere of the Halo universe around me.

This little hangar viewing also showed me the limitations of HoloLens for the first time. I knew from past stories that its field of view was small, but I didn't realize how tiny it was until now. The "window" to the hangar was a tiny slit in the digital wall, and if positioned correctly with HoloLens, you wouldn't notice the visual borders of the device. But move just a little bit and I could see the kind of area I was working with for the next few minutes.

After the little hangar preview, I was told to move to another section of the room that contained a round table, somewhat similar to the hologram tables you see in generic science fiction movies. Sure enough, there was a hologram of a large ship in the middle of the table. There was also a red reticule on the ship, which tracked my eye movements. I could use it to hover over specific parts of the ship, such as its weapons or rockets, and see more details about them in my HUD.

With everyone finally settled around the table, the ship disappeared and was replaced by a female Spartan soldier named Commander Palmer. She then told us how Warzone works, by showing a virtual map of the entire area as well as showing off the various aliens that inhabit specific parts of the map.

Again, the only limiting factor of the entire experience was HoloLens' field of view. The display area for Palmer's presentation was slightly larger than the hangar scene, which meant that you can't really keep the entire scene in your view unless you were a certain distance away. At that point you're either looking for a full view from far away or for better detail up close. For now, it's hard to get both.

Someday, Not Today

Other than the Minecraft demo at the Xbox event, this is the only other time we've seen HoloLens used for gaming purposes. Unfortunately, it's hard to see it having any kind of a permanent fixture for games. At BUILD, it was shown as more of a work-oriented device with some capabilities with games. Using HoloLens with Halo 5: Guardians works because it gives off the same science fiction vibe as the series.

Of course, HoloLens is still in early development with room to improve, so Microsoft could prove me wrong if or when the device arrives on store shelves.

Follow Rexly Peñaflorida II @Heirdeux. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • jaber2
    Nice article thank you, do you think HoloLens might give Oculas Rift a run for its money? since the partnership with Microsoft was a last minute attempt to put Oculas Rift on E3
  • scolaner
    Nice article thank you, do you think HoloLens might give Oculas Rift a run for its money? since the partnership with Microsoft was a last minute attempt to put Oculas Rift on E3

    I think Microsoft is going big on AR/VR, period. I was surprised by the Oculus/MSFT love, but the thing to really understand is that Hololens is *augmented reality*, not *virtual reality*. Thus, HoloLens and devices like the Oculus Rift are complementary, not competitive.

    -HoloLens projects images, etc. onto the real world, and you see both through the HUD. That's what AR does.
    -Oculus Rift (et al) puts you into a completely virtual, but ideally immersive, environment. You cannot see the real world. That's what VR does.

    Both are, from what I've seen, incredibly compelling. But they're fundamentally different.
  • JTP709
    Nice article thank you, do you think HoloLens might give Oculas Rift a run for its money? since the partnership with Microsoft was a last minute attempt to put Oculas Rift on E3

    I don't think Oculus has anything to worry about from Hololens...nore does Microsoft have antying to worry about from Oculus. The Hololens is more Augmented Reality while the Oculus is Virtual Reality. They both serve two entirely seperate purposes.
  • PaulBags
    I can see hololens being useful to watch a tv program on a long commute without holding my phone out in front of me. Would also be useful in the supermarket, if the shelves were IoT, to highlight where items on your shopping list are etc.
  • loki1944
    I'm far more interested in this than the VR stuff.
  • shloader
    Tech like this could be crazy useful inside the console game space once the FOV gets expanded a little. Imagine playing a game like Star Citizen and using this to see relevant information from consoles just by a slight head tilt and glance rather than fumbling with hot-keys to see power and weapon readouts, or extended radar information. Imagine any game where statistical data would be more useful if seen quickly with a slight look up or down as opposed to hitting a key that pauses the game and interrupts the immersion of the game. With something like this, gone would be the days of pausing to look at a map.

    In the PC space I can see where something like this would make much more sense than a 4th & 5th monitor. This could really de-complicate some games that throw a crazy amount of statistical data at you and cause a break in the gameplay to do it.
  • somebodyspecial
    I just can't see myself with a helmet on playing my game. If they can shrink that thing to be glasses at some point maybe, but otherwise I'll just take a screen thanks. I could see it as cool tech for like virtual travels, to say museums or some such, and owning one for that type of stuff (which admittedly would be pretty cool). But I fail to see how I'll ever want a headset of any type on for gaming sessions.

    I already hate huge over the ear old style stereo headsets and prefer in-ear for my "quiet gaming", or full surround speakers when nobody is around (LOL...surround at a few hundred watts can freak out your neighbors with gunshots etc). I love the FEEL of shotgun blasts etc that you can't get from anything on your head. I'm more aware in a Multiplayer FPS with a headset (ie someone sneaking up on you etc), but for most gaming I prefer feeling the thumps etc in my seat/floor. But most people probably don't have a set of Klipsch v2.400's or Logitech Z560's. These will blow you out of your room and right into your neighbors yard ;) ROFL
  • back_by_demand
    Tech will always shrink and I can see a few years from now Hololens will be the size of sunglasses, with a full panoramic field of vision. We just have to go through excruciating increments first, like the first laptops up to todays ultrabooks. The shopping thing would be great, linking into your supermarket club card as you walk down the aisles it highlights your previous purchases, or special offers like 3 for 2's. Or for new items you ask for them and it gives you a Dead Space style breadcrumb line to the item. In gaming you could have PVP in paintball-style arenas. Driving could have HUD directions. Applications are huge, but if the only issues are size and field of vision, these will improve over time, as all tech inevitably shrinks and powers up.