Ever since Microsoft announced its augmented reality headset, HoloLens, in January, the company has declared war on competitors pushing virtual reality as the future of gaming.
If Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus stress immersive gaming, HoloLens encourages mixing video gaming with real life. But unlike these headsets, HoloLens's abilities extend far beyond entertainment.
HoloLens can host games built for both Xbox One and Windows 10, and Microsoft recently revealed that all apps with Windows Universal code can appear on HoloLens as holograms. In fact, for any developer that wants to incorporate other HoloLens-specific features into their products, the company plans to release the device's API (or application program interface) to app makers soon.
While we can expect the availability of already-demoed games like Minecraft and obvious choices like Netflix and Skype, we can only guess what other apps will launch with the device.
Naturally, we did just that, looking at the most popular games and apps on the Windows Store. We asked ourselves, what would really showcase augmented reality's potential for innovative user experiences, and how?
How many of these ideas are feasible with HoloLens's underlying technology won't become clear until later. Until then, these are the apps and games we hope to see in Microsoft's vision for augmented reality.
Modern life is all about pretending you're good at multitasking. This popular app has over 2,400 free educational videos and would work perfectly as a holographic visual display instructing you on things like art history or economics while you fold laundry or do the dishes.
Beyond a standard hologram, the app could employ OnSite (the tech Microsoft used to show the surface of Mars on HoloLens) to improve the educational experience. Imagine if the app projected paintings from the Museum of Modern Art onto your wall or let you conduct chemical experiments and dissections with a virtual lab station.
Emphasizing HoloLens's educational benefits and its ability to take us on pseudo-field trips could make it a popular buy for kids, or hell, even their parents.
Similar apps: How Stuff Works, Encyclopedia Britannica
If HoloLens can guide us through fixing our plumbing, why can't it help us overcome our terrible cooking skills?
Allrecipes' hugely popular cooking apps Dinner Spinner and Video Cookbook feature how-to videos with synced cooking instructions, menu planners and shopping lists, perfect for augmenting your kitchen while cooking. The hands-free app could, for example, superimpose cooking instructions and an ingredient checklist above the stove, with a 3D image of what your dinner should look like at step six versus the pale imitation sitting on your countertop.
A holo-video could detail next steps, autoplaying without having to put your greasy mitts on any smartphone, tablet or laptop. HoloLens has shown how it can be helpful in special circumstances, like repairs, but it needs apps like this that make day-to-day tasks that much easier - and enjoyable.
Similar apps: Cocktail Flow
Remember Tom Cruise using the augmented-reality computer from Minority Report?
A Flipboard app designed for HoloLens that shares similarities to fictional 2054 technology could only boost excitement for Microsoft's new device. With this beloved Windows app, your personalized magazines and newspapers, tailored to your interests and reading habits, would sit on your coffee table or desk.
Opening one would spread out your tailored content and news across the table surface or in the air in front of you, with thumbnails of upcoming and related stories sitting on the margins waiting for you to swipe them into full view. This app could exhibit Kinect 2.0's ability to comprehend complicated gestures and allow users to select one small window of content out of dozens.
Similar apps: News Republic, Paper, Zinio
At the Windows 10 event in Redmond earlier this year, Microsoft emphasized the possibilities of engineering impressive designs for 3D printing through holograms. But not everyone has the skills or patience for that. Instead, HoloLens could target a more casual crowd by letting users paint fun virtual designs on their bedroom walls or trace the Mona Lisa in their living room.
The app's animation features could also allow for dynamic movement with the designs. If XKCD's sloppiest stick-figures shine above your best efforts, you could even download or purchase other artists' amazing designs to cover your house's interior instead - a modern upgrade of desktop backgrounds.
Similar apps: Fresh Paint
Reading books in AR could incorporate enhancements in e-book technology while preserving your focus on the actual book. Without the limiting screen dimensions of an e-reader or tablet, publishers could surround the holographic text space with windows of useful information.
For example, as you read Game of Thrones, you can locate the narrator's location on the book's map sidebar, or pull up Daenerys's family tree alongside the text without losing your view of the page.
Kindle could provide universal widgets as well, such as a glossary or dictionary, a bookshelf of recommended follow-up reads, or an MP3 player for turning on the audiobook in-app, all present without having to navigate away from the text.
Similar apps: Nook, Microsoft Reader