While Microsoft has shown off some very cool applications for things like HoloLens and potential software for collaboration and even AR robots, we’ve hadn’t seen many products aimed at the consumer masses…not until E3, when Microsoft took HoloLens to the people and showed off a Minecraft app.
The idea is simple and effective, it’s amazing we didn’t expect it ahead of time. Minecraft is designed as a giant building block game, so it is a perfect fit for an AR headset. Using HoloLens, you can transform a normal flat table into a Minecraft platform and quite literally plan with your hands. The headset will superimpose the whole Minecraft right there on your table (or perhaps your living room floor) so it looks like all your creations are really there and you are standing above them like a tech-savvy god.
HoloLens appears capable of switching between a 2D view of Minecraft that you can control with an Xbox One controller – we’re still talking about Microsoft here – then a 3D version that adds depth to the “screen,” and finally a reality mode that pulls the blocks out into the real world. Gamers can inspect landscapes, change viewpoints, and control their Minecraft avatar in this environment, walking around for whatever perspective they want or pulling the world above or beneath them to look at towers and underground caverns.
The whole thing works on voice commands like “Place World” and, more gigglingly, “Lightning Strike” so you don’t need a lot of button presses when in the Real World mode.
Fans have already suggested other, perhaps more practical uses for this type of HoloLens technology, like using it for strategy games such as Starcraft. But with a real, workable demo of Minecraft, it’s a safe bet that this is the first game on Microsoft’s HoloLens list. It’s good to see that, despite the new partnership with Oculus Rift, the company isn’t forgetting about its own AR-focused project.