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Microsoft used the HoloLens for their Halo 5 tour, and it was pretty amazing

This morning started like any other here at E3 2015 – getting up early and going over our schedule. First of the day on my list was the Halo 5 Experience, which Microsoft had offered to some in the media. My initial thought was that this was just a detailed hands-on with the latest shoot'em up where we can ask questions and get the PR tour.

Seeing as the appointment was before the E3 show floor opened, Microsoft had to escort a group of us to the special area. We were given a special badge to wear that was mostly blank. This badge came to be used for a special purpose as I soon found out.

IPD card

As we are standing in line, a Microsoft employee wearing a lab coat (part of the experience, of course) came by and measured our interpupillary distance (IPD). You likely have had this done too when you get our eyes checked for glasses as it is a measurement of the distance between your pupils.

Larry Hyrb

I get déjà vu. No, not because I recently had my eyes checked for glasses but because Microsoft has done this trick two other times with me for HoloLens. I then see Larry Hyrb aka Major Nelson and I say 'This is HoloLens, isn't it?' and he tells me my mind is about to be blown. Now I'm intrigued.

The Halo 5 demo through HoloLens

My first thought was the Microsoft had another secret: Halo 5 would have a HoloLens component (HaloLens?), but this would turn out to be off-the-mark.

Six of us were escorted through a lab door like the ones you see in science fiction movies (the doors split in the middle and slide out).The only thing missing was the whooshing sound. Microsoft had created a mini military bunker that resembled something you would see in the Halo universe for Spartans. The lighting was blue and red with green, and there was United Nations Space Command (UNSC) logos stamped everywhere.

Some other Microsoft employees, also wearing lab coats, then sat us down and called us up one by one. Our IPD was entered into a computer that calibrated the HoloLens for our eyes. We were then instructed to get up, and the HoloLens came to life.

Microsoft did a clever thing with this demo. The HoloLens put a beacon in the distance with a meter on it. As you walked towards it, the numbers (distance in meters) dropped. Yes, HoloLens was acting as a guide, telling you where to go. As we came to our areas, we had to look at a certain security system that the HoloLens activated through our gaze.

As we entered the main room, there was a round map table like you would see in Star Wars. Looking at the table through the HoloLens and you would see a hologram from Halo.

The whole thing was a tutorial on the Warzone game of Halo 5 that we were about to play. A female Spartan walked out from a bunker and explained to us the map, goals, enemies, how to level up and grab weapons.

The HoloLens experience lasted between 5 to 10 minutes, and no photos were allowed during the event.

You can see a quick video demonstration of this in the video embedded here.

Overall, it was an exciting and unexpected use of HoloLens. The people in attendance, most of which never used HoloLens, were certainly blown away by it. Seeing as this was my third opportunity with HoloLens, I was still impressed but obviously it was not as 'mind blowing' as that first time back in January.

Hey, as of today, I have worn a HoloLens on my head for over two hours, so it's hard to keep that child-like awe fresh! Okay, it was pretty awesome.

Did anything change?

Many are probably wondering if the hardware has changed at all or if the field-of-view (FOV) had improved since the last time I used HoloLens. After all, many of us complained back at Build that the limited FOV was hindering the experience. You do not see holograms all around you, just holograms in your direct line of site, which is quite narrow.

The hardware was different in slight ways. For one, the dial at the back to tighten the band was now much smaller, giving the device a much cleaner look and the device overall felt sturdier.

Regarding the FOV I cannot definitively say it was drastically better. Nor was it worse. I was, however, able to see more once I pulled the lens part away from my face. It is still not as immersive as what Microsoft reveals in the video, but the overall quality of the holograms, and the sound (aural experience) was still excellent.

Most of the people in attendance did seem very impressed with it, and I did not hear any complaints, which was a change from the Build experience in San Francisco.

HoloLens is certainly very impressive technology, and there are some exciting applications of the technology. Even though HoloLens is still in its infancy, Microsoft is well advanced already in the hardware and software aspects of this new genre. This commitment means that things can only get better, but it may take some time to get there.

For now, I think Microsoft is doing things right with these slow rollouts to the public, getting feedback and further refining the experience. I'm still very excited about HoloLens, but I am more interested in seeing what Microsoft does next with it.

Oh, and Halo 5 Warzone was pretty great too.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

57 Comments
  • It would be so cool to see Spartan Palmer giving you a rundown on events and such. Did Paul get to do this too?
  • Paul had an appointment but was unable to make it.
  • Poor Paul :(
  • Have you had a chance to talk to any of the higher ups at MS about the fov? Please let them know they are only hurting themselves with the deceptive showings if they can't deliver an acceotable fov.
  • There is nothing deceptive about it. The simple fact is that the FoV of a camera lens is also very restricted so when you show one on the other, you don't get any feeling for it. What should Microsoft do, deliberately make it look even narrower than it really is or put blinkers on the device to completely block your peripheral vision? I think their approach is fine - I'd rather have high res holograms in a restricted FoV than lower res over a wider FoV.
  • they could simply show what the user sees. The hololens is creating the image and compositing it.
  • "Simply" isn't the word you should use because it's the exact opposite of that.
  • How do you think that would even look to the camera? Perhaps a view frustum emanating from the viewer's face with the hologram showing only in that space.
  • That would still show edge to edge holograms because it would still be capturing the background from a camera.
  • The field of view displayed on the large monitors is exactly the field of view that a person sitting in the audience would see if they were wearing a HoloLens.  A person sitting in the audience would be able to see the entire stage lit up with all of the augmented images.  Unfortunately, people are making the assumption that what they are seeing is what the guy on stage is seeing.  Perhaps they should show BOTH views and not introduce the camera saying that it is showing what the guy is seeing.  The camera is showing what an audience member would see.
  • They could have just made a Hologram of Paul being there.
  • Thanks for the descriptive walk-through Dan. It's a welcome taste for those of us who have not yet had an opportunity to give HoloLens a try:-)
  • This thing will be so expensive when it comes out, but if MS feels like gambling and keep it in the $299 range, they'll take the game world by storm. Not to mention the educational system (med, architects, Eng and law enforcement students come to mind). And yeah, I know. The industry that will make the most money next to Gov contractors will the porn industry. Oh well.
  • Not happening. Maybe years from now it can be that price.
  • I don't see it debuting at less than a surface pro cost point.
  • Surface hub cost., surface pro cost will be welcomed for a well developed hololens
  • u are day dreaming !! it will cost atleast $1000
  • So the only negative thing I am hearing from everyone is limited view and line of sight for AR, which I think is pretty big deal for the experience of it. What do you think Daniel? It sounds like it is AMAZING but at the same time not really. I am not trying to write it off, but I would expect to work like a regular glasses which I believe it does not.
  • FOV still bad :| tHis is a deal breaker, if not fully immersed it won't be worth the money. YOu can't look at large objects as it is now. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • It's not VR, you are not supposed to be fully immersed. Do you get a better FoV from your console? No, of course you don't but that didn't stop you buying one, did it? In any event, this isn't the only egg in their basket. They have deals in place with both Oculus and Valve/HTC so they'll have everyone well and truly covered.
  • Well said. The only people who have complained about the fov are the ones who experienced it pryor to build.
  • No.  I first experienced it at Build and one of the first things I noticed was that I had to move my head around alot to see things.  I typically do not move my head around as much as I move my eyes.  In this case, I essentially kept my eyes forward and had to move my head.  Unatural.  I am sure the FOV will improve over time, perhaps in version 2.  I am only guessing that, once they switched from teather to battery power, they had to reduce the amount of work it could perform.  As such, the FOV lost the left and right images.
  • So you would rather just look at a screen then? Because right now that is the alternative so as long as HoloLens can match that, I'll be over the moon.
  • I think they will ultimately get field of view right.  My 15 inch monitor is pretty immersive when I sit 10 inches away. The hololens will be much closer to your face. If they have to render the projections in the periphery in reduced resolution to acheive the level of performance desired, I think they should. It is not an unreasonable expectation with a new technology like this to have to turn your head towards what you are focusing on. What you are focusing on should always be rendered in the highest resolution possible. Downsample the stuff on the edges. My concerns for this device are around price and battery life. I hope Microsoft provides a way to tether the hololens to a power supply and/or a more powerful processing unit.  If it had that capability and came in at around $1k, I would seriously consider buying one.
  • Basically its like wearing glasses that aren't wrap arounds or look like massive magnifying glasses stuck to your face.
  • Basically its like though a telescope/periscope to a postage sized image, and so you only see Holo Images when you look directly at them, and dissapear out of view when you move your sight slightly. Nothing like the media demos.
  • I feel like the FOV is going to be the achiles heel on this whole thing. The argument to use something like Oculus with a video passthrough may be more engaging (granted not the same tech overall). That said, I really, really hope they can do more with this. The main issue is so far, aside from awesome minecraft and piloted demos (no, the sirs on screen were not moving the minecraft table himself <- my belief from the video). Granted, they've shown way more than Magic Leap has and is looking to offer a little more than Cast AR. But People may prefer the  tether or ML if the FoV isn't solved. What good is it to blow up a virtual screen if all I can see is a sliver.
  • This does sound pretty cool!   I suppose this is where Hololens falls down and Oculus Rift and Valve comes in though. The ability to play Halo 5 fully immersed using a Rift would be pretty incredible, even moreso with a nifty Halo weapon controller... Could Hololens still project a full virtual environment or can it only augment?   I wonder if we will see these things happen later this year, or if they're still too far in the future.   Heck, I'd love to play most games using an Oculus Rift type device. Mario Kart Rift, anyone? ;)
  • Nothing to say you couldn't have a clip-on 'shield' that would completely block the real world from the hololens display.
  • This. Regardless of whether HoloLens will do it or not, AR has the capability of doing VR. VR cannot be AR.
  • It's a different device with a diffrent use. Don't ask of Hololens to be a device for first person gaming, that's missing the point. And I like Oculus Rift but I don't think it's still quite there. More than in technical aspects, with its really high requirements and all, I mean in regards to software. Games need to start being made totally different, from scratch across the industry. It just doesn't cut it to play regular games on it, IMHO. IT's not going to deliver a good experience.
  • I want Forza 6 with racing simulator wheel/seat, and an oculus connected..... What would be even more awesome is one of those crazy seats that have hydraulics and simulate g-force....... That would be insane ......oh yea, and I want a Hololens for work, I'm an architect, and that demo at Build blew my mind
  • @nasellok This would be pretty sweet. Had to ask, are architects in to this thing and the money it could make them? I work for a multifamily developer in IT/low-voltage development. We waste too much money on adjusting plans/building layouts after we are in framing, just because sometimes, until you see vertical walls, blueprints just don't cut it you know? I would love (and my company would fork over some serious coin) to be able to see some of our development blueprints translated into a 3d/AR experience so that we could "walk" a site and see things that might be missed on a set of drawings. We blew through 300k plus in contingencies due to stuff like this.
  • @prettyconfusd, enjoy being severely short sighted :p.
  • @TechFreak! Enjoy being rude and apparently not reading my entire post. ;) HoloLens has plenty of uses, I was only talking with a Microsoft rep at an event last week about how we could use it in the education and design industries, but in this context we're talking games and so far the device doesn't overlap with Oculus or Valve, one of my questions was if this was through limitation of the tech, or through choice on Microsoft's part to not explicitly compete with them right now. Which a couple of other people were able to give some decent and informed answers to, so thanks to them! :)
  • I just realized all those scenes with holograms sitting around a table in their own respective chairs while being thousands of miles away (Star Wars, Kingsmen, etc.) are now completely possible with a simple webcam and hololens.
  • Yup.
  • Exactly, AR meetings worldwide! I think naysayers are just all whinning about FoV being limited, what happened when smartphones had 2.5 - 3.5" screens? They (Even stuborn Apple) evolved into 5 - 6.5" screens! So Hololens will have better FoV in a couple of years, why have people become so lazy thinking is beyond me!
  • Was the video supposed to be that short? It seemed to just cut off.
  • Yea someone made a mistake
  • There was no mistake. Those were the media samples given.
  • Yea maybe the person who gave out the samples made an editing mistake. Teasers dont just cut off like that.
  • I want to try it before I judge the FOV. Though I was disappointed to read that you weren't able to tell a difference. When you pulled the lens away, did the focus change?
  • Honestly something like this experience at a theme park would be astounding
  • I understand the complaint about the FOV, but people shouldn't base their expectations on a picture or video of someone being "filmed" while using it and has holograms behind their back and well out of their normal human sight. And regardless of this, the experience clearly makes up for it.
  • Lol is that Ryan Mccaffrey from IGN in the background of the Larry Hyrb picture.
  • You should read his hands on. He was blown away.
  • If Cortana popped out of hololens that would have been EPIC
  • So, how big is the field of view? If you held your arms fully extended, would the image be like holding a 7" tablet, 24" monitor, 47" TV, or what?
  • I definitely won't be getting this if the FOV doesn't improve dramatically.  Microsoft should hold off on a retail release of the product and instead go the Oculus route by releasing the product as a dev kit to allow developers to continue to work on their software ideas for it, but upgrade the processing capabilities to allow a full panoramic field-of-view.  I'm convinced this is where the problem lies.
  • So was there any fov border?
  • So many 'experts' who have never looked at one in real life let alone through it wining and complaining.  Pop a chill pill, just like the first Surface Pro and Band 1 this is going to be refined and improved upon, im eagerly waiting for Hololens 2.0 whenever that comes.  As it stands today its great that MS is leading the way into new territories.
  • Just imagine where this technology could be 20 years from now.
  • This is a holographic headset. Holographic. That's something that people have dreamed of for decades, something that until recently only existed in Sci-Fi films. I think people are taking this issue a bit too seriously, it's overshadowing the fact that this is one awesome, futuristic machine that can do so much and is sure to amaze. Yes, there may be a slight flaw, but technology does not come out perfect, especially not on the first go. It gets refined, rebuilt, and evolves. If you constantly wait for pieces of tech to fix all their flaws, you'll be waiting for a long time. And for a first try, in a field that is entirely new and using technology that has had to be invented just for it, Microsoft has been able to produce an actual holographic headset that overlays images into real-life with no lag, with a ton of uses both industrial and personal, that is reasonably lightweight, powerful and wireless. It couldn't have been easy, and every part of Hololens must have been carefully designed and redesigned multiple times at least. But still, some people complain like it makes the device completely unusable.
  • Laser tag and Disney world could benefit greatly from this technology.
  • I got a lot of grief on my comments complaining about limited FoV and Microsoft not being clear on this subject. Seems like it is still remains issue.  Like I have said before, its impressive and exciting technology, but a long way off [Another year or two away] getting the FoV sorted for a consumer releasable product. It is now obvious that some reviewers are getting a little jaded by the  Jan, Build and now E3 HoloLens experiences not  living up to the hype of the staged demos, impying the wider FoV.  That is what I find so annoying. I just want Microsoft to be honest with us all. Tell us what the real FoV is, and what their plans are on improving it.  
  • Dear Daniel, ​Like many, I am waiting with bated breath for the HoloLens release. What I find disconcerting is that none of the articles I've read mention the FOV of the tethered HoloLens demo'd in Jan. I have the impression that that was much larger than what we see now. Could you please confirm, as you have seen both demos? ​ ​