Why Microsoft bought Minecraft: To showcase HoloLens' augmented reality

Why Microsoft bought Minecraft: To showcase HoloLens' augmented reality

What does $2.5 billion get you? If you're a Microsoft, a really cool augmented reality demo.

If you've been wondering since September why Microsoft blew $US2.5 billion on Minecraft maker Mojang now we have our answer: HoloLens. Microsoft wanted a game that would make its augmented reality technology really shine and Minecraft was it.

"Let's have a game that, in fact, will fundamentally help us change new categories," Mr. Nadella recently told The New York Times. "HoloLens was very much in the works then, and we knew it."

When Microsoft showed off HoloLens in January one of the demos turned your immediate surroundings into the world of Minecraft. HoloLens with Minecraft allows you to blow a hole in your couch and reveal a cavern, or create a virtual building on your living room rug. When we got our hands on the HoloLens demo in January we thought it was "undoubtedly the most fun" use for the AR tech.

If you build it, will they come?

HoloLens is one of those technologies that looks very cool and fun to use, but how it will succeed in the real world is anyone's guess. (PCWorld's Mark Hachman doesn't expect it to be revolutionary, at least in the short term.) Much like other virtual reality products--including the forever forthcoming Oculus Rift or Samsung's Gear VR--HoloLens requires wearing a bulky headset to project images in front of your eyes.

That's why gaming and other relatively brief encounters like telecommunications are key to attracting users to this new technology. It seems unlikely many people would be interested in spending all day in a virtual Minority Report-style office. Using a headset for remote collaboration or relaxing by spending a little time in Minecraft, however, could appeal.

The impact on you at home: That's if enough people are interested in buying the augmented reality headset. A Microsoft executive recently said HoloLens would cost significantly more than a game console, according to the Times;  the base price of the Xbox One is currently $350. Minecraft has its fans, but HoloLens may need a few more exciting games and other "killer apps" before many folks will be willing to fork over serious cash to strap HoloLens to their heads.

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Tags Microsoftoperating systemsgamingsoftwareWindowsgamesnew york timesaugmented realityThe New York TimesMinecraftMojangHoloLens

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