Xbox Boss Ponders HoloLens' Potential on Console and PC

Gaming will be an important category for HoloLens, says Phil Spencer, but device must work standalone too.

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Phil Spencer, the director of Microsoft's Xbox division, says his team is thinking hard about the creative and commercial possibilities of supporting HoloLens on Xbox One.

On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled its radical concept for rich augmented reality glasses, called HoloLens, which can render detailed holographic shapes over the real world. But its application for games is still up in the air, according to Spencer.

Speaking at an interview roundtable after the HoloLens unveiling, Spencer took questions about gaming applications for the device. He said that, while there was no specific strategy to announce, gaming features would be a sensible addition.

"To me, there's not a successful consumer electronics device on the planet where gaming is not a primary app category, and I think HoloLens will work the same way; I think gaming will be important," he said.

HoloLens will function as a mobile, standalone device
HoloLens will function as a mobile, standalone device

Unlike most rich virtual reality products, HoloLens does not need to be tethered to a PC or console in order to function. The head-mounted display packs in a GPU and CPU, along with a separate HPU [Holographic Processing Unit]. Spencer praised Microsoft's engineering team for achieving such a feat, and believes the freedom will broaden its commercial potential.

"We think it's important that HoloLens succeeds as a standalone device," he said.

"The experiences [we have demonstrated] are already running in the device itself, which I think is a great accomplishment; it's not tethered to something else. We wanted to land that first."

But, he added, Microsoft is aware of the possibility of enhancing the device's capabilities when connected to local devices such as an Xbox One or PC.

"We're thinking hard about specific scenarios with the Xbox, with things like content streaming, and using it as a display for Xbox," he said.

Spencer also appeared to suggest that HoloLens would be the sole direction the Xbox team would take in terms of display peripherals. When asked whether HoloLens was Microsoft's take on the emergence of virtual reality devices, he said "for us, I think this is the area."

Nevertheless, Spencer remains interested in the future of virtual reality, at least as a fan.

"I love the virtual reality stuff that's out there, Morpheus and Oculus, I love it when our industry pushes things forward, and I've always applauded Oculus and Sony for that," he said.

"VR is a completely immersive, block-out-the-rest-of-the-world, experience. I think this is something different."

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