Microsoft HoloLens Shows Its Playful Side at E3

HoloLens-enabled Minecraft and Xbox One backward compatibility are among some of the major announcements Microsoft made at this year's E3.  

Xbox One

While hinting at HoloLens' entertainment capabilities, most early demonstrations of Microsoft's Windows 10-powered augmented-reality headset addressed how the technology can enhance productivity or add a new dimension to real-world tasks like making repairs or conducting medical research.

Late into today's Xbox E3 briefing in Los Angeles, the company displayed another, more entertaining side of HoloLens. Lydia Winters, Mojang brand director (Microsoft snapped up Minecraft developer Mojang last September for a whopping $2.5 billion), and Microsoft Studios executive Sax Persson took to the stage to demonstrate a new version of Minecraft, the popular, Lego-like sandbox game, built for HoloLens.

Using a camera adapted to simulate the HoloLens experience, Microsoft showed audience members and those watching the livestream that Persson was able to sprout a 3D view of the game world on a nearby table top, eliciting cheers from the audience. Using his voice and gesture controls, Persson was able to manipulate the world and change perspective on the live demo using working code.

"From playing Minecraft on your wall to an entire world right on your table, Microsoft HoloLens gives the community a different way to play in the worlds they already love," said Winters. The company plans to make more Minecraft-related announcements during Minecon 2015 in London on July 4 and 5.

Last week, Microsoft and Facebook-owned Oculus announced a partnership in preparation for next year's launch of the Rift virtual-reality headset. Each Rift will ship with a wireless Xbox One controller, and using the company's game-streaming technology, users will be able to play Xbox One games on the Rift using a Windows 10 PC or tablet as an intermediary. The company is also working with Valve VR to bring its virtual-reality platform to Windows 10.

Microsoft also revealed that long-time Xbox fans will soon be able to play their library of old games later this year on the Xbox One, with some new functionality thrown in.

"This holiday, Xbox One will be the only console to support backward compatibility natively for select Xbox 360 games, for free, and all with Xbox One features including screenshots, broadcasting and GameDVR," stated the company in a June 15 announcement. "Backward compatibility is one of the most-requested fan features, and more than 100 classic Xbox 360 games will be available at launch, with more to come." Users are encouraged to submit the titles they would like to see added to the backward compatibility list as the company expands the feature.

Other highlights included live gameplay of the latest entry in the Xbox franchise, Halo 5: Guardians. The title, due to ship on Oct. 27, will support battles with up to 24 players. Other highly anticipated titles shown off today include Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War 4, Madden NFL 16 and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...