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Xbox and holograms coming to Windows 10

Microsoft HoloLens visor
Credit: Microsoft

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Yesterday Microsoft hosted a Windows 10 media event that was packed full of information for all kinds of Windows users. Today I wanted to sum up some of the news relating to gaming.

First up is Xbox on Windows. So what does that mean? Every Windows 10 install comes with an Xbox app that gives you access to all your Xbox Live data. You can see your friends list, chat (voice or text) with friends on both the Xbox One and Windows 10, and see what folks have been sharing. In other words, all the social activities that we're used to doing on the Xbox One can now be done on a Windows 10 device.

You'll also play your games via this app, and in his demo Xbox head Phil Spencer made a point of playing a Steam game, so we're not talking about some kind of Games for Windows Live silo situation. It seems like you can launch any game through the Xbox app.

Once you're playing, you have an overlay that you can pull up by hitting Windows+G, and in that overlay is access to a Game DVR. This works in the same way it does on the Xbox One, and you can retroactively save 30 seconds of gameplay and then share it, stash it in your OneDrive, or just let it sit in your Xbox activity feed.

Xbox on Windows 10 also allows you to play with and against your friends on the Xbox One. The upcoming title Fable Legends was used as a demonstration of this, with Phil Spencer playing on a Windows 10 machine and adventuring with a friend who was playing on an Xbox One.

Microsoft is also trumping one of Sony's exclusive features from the Playstation 4. On the PS4 you can use "remote play" to play your PS4 games on a Playstation Vita or a small number of Sony mobile devices, via streaming. Windows 10 will let you stream Xbox One games to almost any device running the OS, and since Windows 10 will support Xbox One controllers you'll get pretty much the same experience as if you were on the console. So when the family wants to watch American Idol you can just stream your Xbox One games to a Windows 10 laptop or tablet and keep on playing.

Getting into the geeky details, Windows 10 includes DirectX 12 which is supposed to squeeze a lot more power out of your existing hardware while at the same time being easier on your battery life. (Remember, Windows 10 is going to be running on everything from your desktop computer to your smartphone.)

There was also a quick mention of Windows 10 apps on the Xbox One, but not a lot of details there; presumably we'll learn more at the Game Developers Conference.

This is all great news but I think Microsoft needs to close the circle and let us stream Windows games to our Xbox One, as well as streaming Xbox One games to our Windows machines. I think they could sell a lot of consoles to folks who are primarily PC gamers but who might want to play in the living room and get access to Xbox One exclusives as a bonus.

The other big announcement was HoloLens, and while it isn't specifically gaming related it certainly will have gaming applications. HoloLens is an augmented reality headset with 360 degree sound and both head and hand tracking. What this means is that you can see what Microsoft is calling holograms floating in space around you, and you can interact with them via voice or hand gestures.

Check out the teaser video:

It all seems a little too good to be true, doesn't it? But Microsoft says it has been working on this for years and that it will be available "in the Windows 10 timeframe." I'm not sure if they mean around the time that Windows 10 ships (which is supposed to be this year) or if it means sometime in the lifespan of Windows 10, which based on past Windows releases means sometime in the next 2-3 years.

HoloLens seems to be Microsoft's answer to VR visors like the Oculus Rift or Sony's Project Morpheus and I'd argue they're on the right track. HoloLens looks to be something you can wear for long periods of time without isolating yourself from the people around you and I suspect many consumers will see it as more 'friendly' than a full VR visor that completely blocks out the real world.

Microsoft HoloLens used in gaming Microsoft
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