What it is: The HoloLens is Microsoft’s virtual reality headset that was supposed to offer new ways to play video games.
When Microsoft demonstrated the HoloLens in 2015, they showed a demonstration of playing Minecraft using the HoloLens virtual reality headset. Back then the promise would be that HoloLens would become a video gaming accessory to let you play new types of video games that would emerge you in the game itself.
This year at the E3 gaming exposition, Microsoft’s HoloLens suddenly went missing. Instead of marketing the HoloLens to the consumer market, Microsoft is now gearing the HoloLens to the enterprise market.
Sébastien Motte, who used to work on the Xbox, believes the HoloLens technology was taking too long to reach consumer friendliness. Collaboration with enterprises will buy Microsoft more time and allow more experimentation. “It’s not ready for consumer prime time,” Motte says, estimating it will “take a few years” to hit shelves.
The real answer is simple. Technology, not matter how wonderful it may work, must solve two types of problems. First, technology must solve technology problems. In the case of HoloLens, the technical problems involve creating a virtual reality headset that works.
Second, technology must solve people problems, and here’s where the HoloLens, and virtual reality in general, fails. If you look at the above picture, you can see the biggest drawback with virtual reality headsets that require you to strap something to your face to use it. If you could only use a smartphone by strapping it to your face all the time, how many people would want to use a smartphone?
That’s the biggest problem with virtual reality headset is that they force you to wear it when you want to use it. A second problem with virtual reality gaming in particular is how does virtual reality make gaming better than current video games?
If you look at the original video games like Pong or Space Invaders, you can see that they look primitive compared to today’s video games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft. The difference is the graphics and the seemingly infinite choices you can make in today’s video games compared to the highly restricted world of Pong or Space Invaders.
The reason people buy a Playstation or Xbox is because they offer more flexibility than the arcade games of the old days that could only play one game. When technology offers a clear advantage, its’ easy to see why people would want to buy the latest technology.
Now the big question is how does the HoloLens make video games better? You can move objects with your hands as if you’re manipulating them for real. You can look around the virtual world in ways you can’t when viewing a game world on a flat screen. Is that better? It’s more visually interesting, but does that make for better, more engaging game play?
Right now, virtual reality offers minimal advantages over today’s video games. In return for extra cost and visually unique perspectives, you gain few advantages that most people would feel aren’t worth it, and that’s the reason why HoloLens isn’t growing in popularity with video gaming. HoloLens is impressive technology but it fails to offer significant improvements that offer must-have features.
Virtual reality gaming is coming for sure. It just won’t come until it offers a clear advantage first in letting you play games that are simply not possible with today’s game consoles. A $300-$400 Xbox represents a huge step forward from dedicated arcade machines that cost thousands of dollars. Virtual reality gaming needs to offer a similar huge step forward before it becomes popular as well.