Whichever way you slice it, Microsoft certainly had the most technologically compelling conference at this year’s E3. HoloLens is Microsoft’s augmented reality glasses, a system it hopes will bring everything from office life and gaming together. Functional in the real world wherever you are; at home, waiting at the dentist’s, wherever. It’s using Minecraft as its videogame tech demo showcase, and after witnessing it in action you can certainly see why; where ordinarily players can witness the blocky world from first-person, with HoloLens you’ll see it from a god’s-eye view.
The HoloLens uses a flat surface – a desk, a table, whatever you have – and on it will be your Minecraft world, with you peering down from above. You’ll be able to view the world from any angle simply by moving around the table, and even peering inside structures and underground by moving in closer. It’ll make that search for diamonds that much easier, that’s for sure. Since it’s seen as a permanently set point of view, the camera can be altered through voice to zoom in, follow a particular player or scroll to the side. Each of the game’s console commands have been implemented via voice recognition, too, so you should have just as much control.
There are still a lot of questions, of course. Does HoloLens really work as well as it seems to? Is it not awkward controlling your Minecraft character from on top like that? Will it work properly in your home? There are far too many questions just yet, but as a statement of intent it’s clear that Microsoft has some very, very exciting tech on its hand. AR has long been one of those concepts that has failed to ever get to the level of quality where it can truly get off the ground, but if what Microsoft promises comes to pass then – much like the state of VR – it could lead to some vital technological advances for gaming as a whole.