Epic Games employees say Microsoft 'poisons' the AR industry in leaked emails

HoloLens 2
HoloLens 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Epic Games employees discuss Windows Mixed Reality and the HoloLens in a leaked email thread.
  • While some employees seem optimistic about the technology, one says that Microsoft 'poisons the well' for the AR industry.
  • Another employee accuses Microsoft of "Magic Leap-level overselling."

The Epic Games antitrust lawsuit has shed light on some intriguing areas in the battle between Epic Games and Apple. While the majority of headlines from the ongoing case center around Epic Games' 'Project Liberty,' a recent piece of evidence loops Microsoft into the conversation. An email chain from June 2019 filed as evidence in the trial and seen by Windows Central shows Epic employees discussing how Microsoft's HoloLens and Mixed Reality efforts affect the rest of the industry.

The thread starts off with a discussion of Apple's ARKit announcement at WWDC. The discussion focuses on location anchoring, which rolled out later with ARKit 4. The conversation then segued over to other location-based technology, including Microsoft's Azure spatial anchors (opens in new tab).

An employee named Atli Mar wrote:

Totally, We prototyped geo storing of point clouds and fetching a while back (that's the stuff we geeked out on at E3 lat year Mark R), using an early version of the RPO galaga stuff. It works reasonably well. Over time, we'll have to deal with scaling storage of the point cloud, and during gameplay, density of players, persistence and replication of stuffs that the UE4 server isn't designed for.

Later in the thread, Chance Ivey discusses Windows Mixed Reality Spatial anchors:

WMR Spatial anchors in UE4 are in the works, but I've not seen them running in a hololens, let alone IOS. I can say that the Hololens 2's ability to reliably identify a space that it knows and provide user-dropped anchors is pretty impressive (locally that is). it works way better than I was expecting it to. If spatial anchors can reliably replicate that ability to other devices, this could work.

While Ivey seems optimistic about the technology, Mark Rein expressed different thoughts regarding Microsoft:

Yeah horribly overselling AR in a way that poisons the well for the industry. They did this same shit with Hololens.

Andrew Grant echoes similar sentiments:

On one hand there are a lot of really cool things I could imagine a world-scale AR Minecraft experience being, on the other none of them are in this trailer. Instead, it's just Magic Leap-level overselling of AR capabilities that aren't going to be anywhere close to what they release.Feels like a sizzle reel for what's going to be a very different experience.

The thread finishes with someone sharing a trailer of the AR version of Minecraft.

It's not rare to hear people criticize Microsoft's HoloLens and the Windows Mixed Reality platform. They haven't taken off in the consumer space and struggle to get casual users interested. Both Windows Mixed Reality and HoloLens are, however, successful with enterprises. As noted by our executive editor Daniel Rubino, "Microsoft does have one not-so-secret advantage over potential rivals in MR: it actually exists."

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

  • Sounds, again, like sour grapes to me. I can see they want to overlap and have the tech share features and bridge the gap between functions of each platform but to just crap on them for what they have done and others have not is a negative in tech. I feel like those kinds of people in the industry are the REAL poison... 😒
  • I mean, to be fair, how long ago was Hololens demo'd and how many of us actually can get a usable product with an ecosystem? It was first announced in 2015, six years ago. I also was hyped for it, but at this point for all intents and purposes in the consumer space it's vaporware. I'd love to see it arrive but I fortunately stopped holding my breath long ago. Like Cortana and Windows Phone, it was way ahead of the curve when announced but by the time it reaches consumer hands Apple/Google and others will likely have taken the market. Very unfortunate.
  • It's not vaporware like you said. HoloLens currently prioritize enterprise market than consumers.
  • I purchased two HoloLens units (v1) when they were originally released. Sold one to purchase a hololens 2 - which you can go do on Microsoft's site right now. The first version retained anchor points no matter where I went. I had setup AR rooms in 6 different cities, and all are still retained. Waiting for my 2 to get here to see if they persist between versions. HoloLens is absolutely NOT vaporware. My entire house is now an AR computing environment. I even have AR screens to supplement my physical PC screens. Oh, and with Adobe's new AR kit (Aero), you can create and see AR on the fly.
  • Well, it was an internal e-mail. What he is getting at is Microsoft is overselling consumer technology than the truth comes out and severely damages the technology in the public's eye. Some examples of this to me would be: - Kinect stuff that was just fabricated during reveals and followup demos
    - Your Xbox One is future proof because of DA CLOUD
    - Xbox has the infinite power of da cloud i.e. off-load physics (Crackdown 3)
    - Minecraft Hololens/AR stuff Other things that Microsoft has not directly gone overboard with but I suspect they do it thru paid articles:
    - xCloud (way over promising on this) The public generally has gotten the joke from the beginning except the Kinect v1.0, which actually sold 25m units. Rinse and repeat with their consumer products.
  • You mean like every tech demo Epic shows off with Unreal engine (overselling). One that for the most part can never be fully replicated in the real world of game development only in locked down 5 minute demo.
  • I guess its the same situation as Sony revealing all their PS3, PS4 and even some PS5 games using CGI trailers misrepresenting their final product, until the entire industry had to copy them as to not look like their graphics are explicitly worse. Trend setting misrepresentations are found in all companies. I was once oversold on the security of Playstation network only to have my credit card, address, and passwords leak on the open web.
  • I would say generally all companies like to show their tech in the best of light. What Microsoft is doing is showing technology that isn't even capable of doing in anyway what they are showing. The Kinect stuff is a clear sample of this, they literally fabricated whole long demos. To the general public's credit... most of this example I shown were never bought into. BTW Sony didn't say these things, Rein over at Epic said it. My list is just my take. He is right, if you overstate technology than people might write it off completely. I would say all this stuff has drastically hurt Microsoft with really the last major consumer thing they have left - gaming.
  • Aside from the initial vision trailers for where VR and AR are going to be headed in the future, the only thing Microsoft showed specifically for HoloLens that it was incapable of was the mis-represented field of view. I've seen splashy PS Move trailers that showed as much fantastical and non-representitive imagery as I saw with Kinect. I had both versions of Kinect and the first device worked as advertised, the second generation Kinect had basically no games and was killed due to massive customer backlash. They can't listen to fans and support an unwanted device at the same time. Also, while Crackdown was a mess of a game, Xbox is delivering on cloud/Azure powered videogames using graphics enhancements and physics calculations in the cloud with Flight Simulator which is currently announced for Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles and coming out this year. Microsoft being ahead in AR isn't hurting them because they show unrealistic field of view, it isn't even a proper consumer product yet.
  • www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=yCeguKin1iM Its just fabrication and the best fabrication is to mix in stuff that doesn't work with some that does. The whole concept of picking stuff in space even is not realistic. The general public never bought into all this nonsense. Its overselling just like the Epic guy said. Its not that it doesn't work.... its that it really doesn't work they way they are selling. You are confusing doesn't work with overselling... he is saying they are overselling it. The Kinect would have been fine if they just did demos of dancing games, all the other stuff was either fabricated like the Star Wars stuff or football stuff. Does the Kinect work, sure, just not in the way they were selling i.e. overselling. "Also, while Crackdown was a mess of a game, Xbox is delivering on cloud/Azure powered videogames using graphics enhancements and physics calculations in the cloud with Flight Simulator which is currently announced for Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles and coming out this year." This means nothing, they oversold the whole physics in the cloud which was never a good idea and everyone that does game rendering told them why. Just because you can technically do it.... doesn't mean its good. There has been remote processing of game data over networks since the 90s. If they can do some things users want, cool, the problem is they are overselling this stuff which poison's the well for the future. He never says AR or Hololens doesn't work, he is saying they are overselling. Than the general public just turns away from it completely. He is right. You are missing the whole point, and the guy doesn't work for Sony. Not sure what you guys obsession with Sony is. The general public has basically turned Microsoft off as far as all this silly marketing, of course, they are free to keep killing their own chances. To the general publics credit.... all this stuff has failed. Which is what the point of the Epic guy was, they're killing technology by overselling and over-promising. Consumers just laugh now.
  • Agreed, it sounds all so petty and jealous. Nobody ever gives MS their due for all the things they worked to create and bring, it's always people throwing truckloads of manure at them, while secretly they wish they had half of their success (and courage to innovate, there, I said it).
  • Their problem *was* that by skewing towards productivity uses and especially the enterprise, MS was shifting software developers' focus away from consumer and games, the latter being Epic's bread and butter. By MS pooh-poohing VR and dragging AR towards enterprise verticals they pretty much slowed down other areas. That was then, now it is a different story.
    MS has clearly made the point that there is real money *now* for AR in verticals as opposed to the other, consumer-focused AR markets that have yet to materialize. Instead of working the platform before the uses, tgey identified the uses first and tailored the platform to them.
    They zigged while everybody zagged and made it stick.
    A moot point for now...or at least until Apple comes up with something consumers might go for.
  • Epic can bite me. I use my WMR headset daily. What you CAN argue is that NOBODY does anything significant with AR to begin with. The absolute BEST thing I EVER used in AR was with the earlier Windows phones and the HERE City Lens. It was positively perfect. But, outside of gaming, there is little else I can see that consumers would use AR or VR for. Nobody executes AR or VR practicality for work processing. As long as they insist on creating these stupid "cliff houses" and the like, it will be a joke. Since WMR isn't really "mixed"--it's truly only VR--the AR aspects will remain undeveloped. You need external cameras that can bring in your real-world surroundings.
  • VR and AR are expensive and in very early days, and demonstrating their potential is important to grow the industry. Companies that show what the future can be help get developer interest. Apple does the same thing when they show their 2D AR experiences on iOS.
  • Ah... not really seeing any burns or such there. No specifics or technical problems listed or anything. Just... nothing in these emails. Slow news day?