When Halo and HoloLens Merged at E3 2015, Magic Happened

HaloLens.

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During the HoloLens reveal in January, Microsoft showed off a Minecraft demo for its augmented reality technology. Now, the company has turned its attentions to another one of its biggest gaming franchises--Halo--for an all-new HoloLens experience this week at E3 2015.

Today I got to try the Halo HoloLens experience, which really should be called HaloLens (a name 343's Bonnie Ross used earlier this week). Though it didn't blow me away, it was certainly an impressive experience that has me excited for what might be possible for HoloLens gaming in the future.

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Here's how it worked. I entered a dimly lit "lab" on the E3 show floor where Microsoft employees wearing white labcoats outfitted me with a HoloLens headset. Next, I walked down a physical hallway and a Halo objective marker directed me where to go. I never had any previous idea of how utterly cool it would be to walk around the real world whilst being directed by Halo's diamond-shaped waypoint.

Next, I turned left--again this is happening in the real world, not inside a game--and peered into a virtual window to see a bustling UNSC base with ships hovering in the air and a window out into space. I tilted my head in different directions to see around the scene, but my field of view was quite limited--I wanted to see more. Perhaps Microsoft is still working on a bigger demo for later.

After this, I stood around a custom-built command station with four other journalists as a fully voiced hologram of Commander Sarah Palmer from Halo 4 virtually appeared in the middle of the station. This was also really cool just to look at, like something out of Star Wars. She gave an overview of Halo 5's massive Warzone mode, talking about base locations, describing enemy types, and offering strategies for success.

Perhaps it was because my HoloLens was not perfectly fitted to my face, but I had trouble seeing the full scene at my natural eye level. I had to tilt my head downwards somewhat to see the scene as it should be. This was a little unfortunate, but the overall demo was still very impressive.

Watch the video below to see it in action.

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Microsoft was very clear that we were not allowed to take photos or shoot video. But the HoloLens headset I tried looked nearly identical to the one Microsoft showed off back in January. It felt relatively light on my head and fit comfortably after some adjustments.

It should also be noted that this was only an experience--and one conducted in a closed Microsoft environment, not in a home where you may eventually use HoloLens. In addition, there was no gameplay involved; I never held a controller. The experience served only as an elaborate introduction to Warzone.

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The Halo demo was my first experience with HoloLens and it's one that left me pretty excited about the technology. Whereas Oculus Rift and Morpheus block out your entire vision and fully bring you into a virtual world, HoloLens blends the real world with the virtual for a different effect that is striking in an entirely new way.

HaloLens was meant to make you feel like an actual Spartan preparing for battle, but it's not quite there. While there is clearly some promise in this early stage, for now, it's just an experiment--albeit an impressive one.

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