The ongoing AR issue: field of view
The headset's killer app will (hopefully) be discovered in due time, but whether the thing will even work well has been a talking point for a while now. One major problem for augmented reality is the narrow field of view offered by head mounted displays, and the HoloLens is no exception.
Microsoft's holographic headset is, without a doubt, the most impressive AR viewer I've used in terms of latency and clear visuals, but it's not providing exactly what the televised demos of AR Minecraft are promising.
You don't actually see the whole world around you in augmented reality. HoloLens offers a much, much smaller field of view (FOV) that likely won't get bigger any time soon.
At this year's E3, Kudo Tsunoda, Microsoft executive and head of HoloLens, discussed these very issues with the HoloLens's limited field of vision:
"I think you're never going to get to full peripheral field of view, but certainly the hardware we have now, you know, the field of view isn't exactly final," Tsunoda said. "But I wouldn't say it's going to be hugely noticeably different either."
So, whenever the HoloLens is finalized, we probably aren't going to see a world of holograms flooding our view.
After using it myself as an add-on experience to Halo 5: Guardians at E3, I realized there's no ideal way to outright play games using the device, if the FOV remains as narrow as it is. The view was adequate as a fun tutorial, but since we couldn't actually play Halo with the HoloLens on let alone reach out and "touch" anything, I left the experience a little underwhelmed.
Not completely out for the count
That isn't to say gaming on HoloLens should be discounted. At the moment, Minecraft is the biggest pull for AR gaming despite the small FOV. Even Disney has expressed interest in using the tech for its Infinity games – that alone could make a killing for all parties involved.
There's also the numerous other applications HoloLens can excel in. Many businesses have already been part of beta programs using Epson's Moverio BT-200 headset. And that device hardly has the financial backing, computing power and all around experience that the HoloLens provides.
These alternate avenues that Microsoft has briefly shown off before – such as the medical or educational sectors – has even led the company to release a call for research proposals.
Microsoft Research Corporate Vice President Jeannette Wing recently noted: "We expect that researchers will envision novel ways of using HoloLens – from interactively teaching students, to creating mixed-realty art installations, to manipulating holographic data to reveal new relationships … to who knows what."
Who knows what indeed. Whatever HoloLens will be used for, at least the E3 news has shed more light on the head mounted display's gaming capabilities, even though its future in that field still remains murky.
Originally, the HoloLens was intended to launch alongside Windows 10, though Microsoft cleverly made no mention of a release date. Since Microsoft's new operating system is only a few weeks away from its July 29 launch, it's safe to assume we won't be seeing the headset on sale right then.
With all the demos and videos Microsoft has shown, we've seen the possibilities for HoloLens. I just can't see how it will all come together into a compelling, realistic product. Right now, HoloLens needs to hone in on a purpose, then show us what it can do with a more realistic field of view. Otherwise, it could just end up a wasted opportunity.
Regardless, it seems like Microsoft has put itself in a solid position despite lacking a product that's ready for the public. With a leg in practically every major virtual reality endeavor, save Sony's Project Morpheus, Microsoft can sit back and relax in its web while it figures out just what (and who) HoloLens is for.
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