Today, I raced to the Los Angeles Convention Center for an early meeting with Microsoft. While the event was ultimately about Halo 5: Guardians, they had an incredible surprise for the attendees. From the waiting area, we were ushered into a very loyal recreation of a room on the Infinity, the flagship of the UNSC from Halo 4, which returns in Halo 5.
In the room, we were briefed as though we were new UNSC recruits, and were told that we’d been selected to demo a new UNSC technology: the (Microsoft) HoloLens. After giving us the rundown on how to wear it, we were each given a headset of our own. While at first heavy, most of its weight dissolved when the headset was properly fitted.
There is a rectangular window in the lenses where augmented reality can be projected: anything outside of this box is unaffected. Still, the effects were outstanding. We were ushered down a long hallway and asked to follow waypoints (just like the beginning of any Halo game) floating in midair, appearing as though it was an organic part of the world before me.
As I turned a corner, one of the windows opened, and I could peer inside to see a busy hangar full of Pelicans, Warthogs, and other UNSC vehicles preparing for sorties. I could move my head to any angle, and it would reveal new parts of the hangar, as though there was actual, substantial depth before me.
Finally, we were ushered into a room with a large octagonal briefing table. An image of the infinity appeared in the center of the table, and when I aimed a red reticule in the center of my vision on any part of the ship, it would highlight it and pull up detailed information about that specific part.
When the debriefing began, the model Infinity sank into the table and gave way to a hologram of Sarah Palmer telling us how Halo 5’s new Warzone game mode works. A hologram of the entire level would appear, and sections would have icons added to them as she spoke. To provide emphasis, these areas were zoomed in on and shown in detail.
Simply put, I felt like a rebel preparing for an assault on the Death Star. The holograms never budged, or shook, or glitched out—they seemed like organic structures you could reach out and touch. The HoloLens reminds me of an elaboration of Nintendo’s Augmented Reality functions on the 3DS, but instead of being tied to a screen, life itself is the screen.
Having been skeptical of the technology after its unveiling at Microsoft’s Press Conference this year, I’m now more optimistic about its future. It really is quite the spectacle, and can only be truly comprehended in person.