Last year, Microsoft started shipping HoloLens developer kits to companies and individuals around the world that were willing to part with $3,000 for a shiny new mixed reality headset. As you can imagine, there aren’t that many developers with access to HoloLens kits yet, but the ones who do have Microsoft’s MR system on hand are starting to show promising concepts.
Mixed reality is poised to change how we interact with our computers in ways most people haven’t yet imagined. The idea of working with virtual holographic media superimposed over our real world is such a foreign concept to most people that it still lies in the realm of science fiction for them. But it isn’t science fiction anymore; mixed reality is available today if you have deep enough pockets, and isn’t far off for those of us who don’t.
Last week, we wrote about an experimental piece of software called HoloViveObserver that allows HoloLens and HTC Vive users to interact with a shared VR space, from within the same physical space. The person wearing the Vive would see a virtual world, whereas the HoloLens wearer sees virtual objects in a mixed reality space.
Last week’s news shows a glimpse of the future of productivity, but what about gaming?
Mixed reality opens up myriad possibilities for new game concepts. More than two years ago, Microsoft demonstrated what HoloLens could do for a game like Minecraft. The company presented a tabletop version of the Minecraft map superimposed over a real coffee table, which allowed the HoloLens wearer to play with the world as if it were a bunch of Lego bricks on the table.
HoloLen's Minecraft is an incredibly compelling concept, but that’s just one idea. Imagine playing Valve’s beloved Portal game in your living room, or outside in the real world. Mixed reality technology can do that, and at least one developer already made it happen. He calls himself KennyWdev on YouTube and Twitter, and he released a teaser clip of himself playing Portal in his kitchen, his living room, and outside.
The video shows Kenny W spawning orange and blue portals and dumping a companion cube into them to see how they react. The companion cube interacts with objects in the real environment; for example, it will land on a table or roll down a staircase.
Kenny W isn’t the only developer experimenting with existing game content on the HoloLens. A Japanese developer named Atto Tanufuku took to Twitter to demonstrate his augmented UI concept for Final Fantasy XIV. Tanufuku figured out how to move the game’s UI elements, such as the world map, player’s stat page, inventory, and other pertinent items off of the PC’s display and into the world around the display. Tanufuku’s experiment lets him surround his display with those items, so he can access them at all times with a quick glance.
“By placing the UI system outside the screen, will it become easier for you to become more immers[ed] in the game?” asked Tanufuku in his Tweet.
Kenny W and Atto Tanufuku’s concepts are interesting, but they're just scratching the surface of what’s to come. Expect a growing cadre of creative ideas to come from HoloLens developers.