HoloLens Is And Isn’t Xbox One’s Answer To PlayStation 4’s Virtual Reality Headset

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Microsoft’s Xbox lead Phil Spencer about virtual reality headsets. “For us, I think this is the area,” Spencer told a group of interviewers at yesterday’s Windows 10 event. He was responding to whether there’s also a virtual reality headset in the works at Microsoft, just an hour after the company unveiled HoloLens: a “mixed reality” headset that enables the wearer to see holograms in real life.

For Spencer, HoloLens is both Microsoft’s alternate answer to the recent virtual reality explosion and a potential answer to Sony’s Project Morpheus headset — a VR peripheral that works with the PlayStation 4, where HoloLens could work with the Xbox One. “It’s very cool. To me there’s not a successful consumer electronics device on the planet where gaming is not a primary form of app category on the thing,” Spencer said. There’s even a “Minecraft-inspired” demo — which answers that question — for HoloLens that shows the implications of gaming with holograms. But no demo showed the headset working with the Xbox One in any capacity. Spencer instead talked around that possibility:

“I think gaming will be important. Specific scenarios with the Xbox, we’re thinking hard about. People could ask about streaming solutions. Could I use it as a display for my Xbox? We don’t have answers to any of those things, but know it’s all part of the same organization.”

And that’s why I say HoloLens both is and isn’t an answer to Sony’s Project Morpheus, or the Oculus Rift, or even Samsung’s Gear VR. It’s similarly impressive, and head-mounted, and even delivers some similar experiences, but it’s not virtual reality and it’s not a head-mounted display. It’s… something else.