Microsoft brings new HoloLens demo to Windows 10 event, announces dev kits

Microsoft held its big Windows 10 event yesterday and they had a lot to show us. As impressed I was by the SurfaceBook and new Surface Pro 4, it was the HoloLens news I tuned in for.

This time around they did another game demo. Project X-Ray is a shooter based in whatever room you're playing in. Metal contraptions burst "through" the walls and then flying or crawling robots come out of them and you have to shoot them, grab them with a tractor-beam feature called Vortex, or avoid them by ducking behind a virtual shield. The crawling robots did a good job of crawling across whatever furniture they find in the room; it was pretty creepy.

If this was a traditional game it'd be pretty no frills but of course HoloLens makes it look really fun. Whether it is fun to actually play remains to be seen. Whenever Microsoft demos HoloLens they use a special camera to show what the user is showing. The catch is that, from everything I've read, the actual HoloLens has a fairly narrow field of view and the camera doesn't. In other words these demos probably look better to the audience than they do to the person wearing the actual HoloLens.

And yet for all the caveats, it still looked pretty cool. Microsoft never mentioned it, but the player was using some kind of a controller that looked to be a basic cylinder with some buttons. I'd like to know if that is an official peripheral or just something they threw together for the demo. It didn't look like much until the magic of HoloLens kicked in, at which case it became a sci-fi gauntlet/gun thing. When this illusion first materialize it wavered a little but soon enough it locked on to the players arm and from that point on it looked very convincing, tracking along with the swift movements of the player as he aimed and shot.

Microsoft still isn't ready to talk about when the general public will get HoloLens, but they did announce the developer kits will be going out in Q1 2016 for $3000. You can apply for one now. That price tag is a bit sobering and a reminder that Microsoft has warned us that the consumer version of HoloLens is going to cost somewhere in the range of what you'd pay for a nice laptop.

I'm hoping Microsoft stays devoted to the technology and that HoloLens 2 (or 3 or 4) will come down in price to where it's a bit more accessible. I'm thinking $500 will be the sweet spot where I take the plunge, assuming it all works as advertised and gets good developer support.

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