‘HoloLems’ Makes Your Room into a ‘Lemmings’ Level with HoloLens

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Canadian technology company Globacore have created an AR homage to video game classic Lemmings (1991), now for Microsoft HoloLens. HoloLems, which is free on the Microsoft Store, uses HoloLens’ spatial mapping technology to generate an obstacle course from the player’s real environment.

This gameplay video (heading this article) shows Globacore have managed to reproduce the basics of Lemmings within a real environment—one of the more impressive examples of HoloLens technology being applied to gaming. Young Conker, despite receiving a backlash for its peculiar character redesign, showed similar promise in terms of platforming-style AR gameplay, but the gaze-based control system with voice commands is probably more suited to HoloLems, where the player has indirect control of creature movement.

As Microsoft’s self-contained augmented reality headset is not yet a consumer product, with the Development Edition an eye-watering $3000, it’s understandable that the game library is very small, mostly limited to technology demonstrations; this first generation hardware is aimed at attracting the business and enterprise markets. However, much like VR, gaming showcases are important for spreading the word about AR’s broad potential.

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  • iUserProfile

    AR is such a bore …

    • Bryan Ischo

      Why so closed minded?

      • iUserProfile

        I just don’t get what’s so intretsing about it. It’s not like I’m closing my mind on it but rather AR won’t open up to me.

      • J.C.

        AR has some neat uses, but for gaming it’s clearly going to be only good for very simple games. With no control over the environment’s layout, developers can’t build a truly compelling experience. If you think VR games are all shallow wave shooters, realize that’s pretty much ALL AR can do. That Hololems level sure is neat…oh wait, I only get a few levels because I don’t have an infinite house.

        AR will be fantastic for seeing how a new building design meshes with the skyline. Or as an assist when working on a car or other complex machine! How about a slightly different approach, building it into your windshield for a GPS overlay (I think that’s already been done). All very cool, and super exciting.

        Gaming? Nah. We play games to “be” somewhere other than where we are. As much as VR gaming is currently being written off as a novelty by those unwilling to even try it, AR offers even less.

  • dmbfk

    Real shame they have no shadows, even crude ones. Without them, the illusion of little dudes marching round your environment is infinitely less convincing.

    • Caven

      That’s just a limitation of how the HoloLens works. You can’t use light to make darkness, though I’m sure film photography aficionados would beg to differ. :P

      • Bryan Ischo

        I see plenty of rendered content that looks dark enough to be a shadow. Not sure what you mean. The limitation is in the detection of light sources and the computation of surfaces to cast shadows on, not in the ability to display something that has the same darkness as a shadow would.

        • Caven

          The HoloLens is shining light onto a clear lens. That reflected light is incapable of darkening the real-world scene behind it. When is the last time you saw a black laser, for instance? Keep in mind that the vast majority of HoloLens footage isn’t actually filmed through an actual HoloLens. When the footage is being composited inside a computer for display on a computer monitor, imagery can be rendered with brightness and contrast levels that wouldn’t be possible on the actual device. Considering that HoloLens videos routinely misrepresent the actual FOV of the HoloLens, it’s not out of the question that the depicted visuals aren’t necessarily a faithful representation of what the view through the HoloLens looks like.

          • Bryan Ischo

            The shadows do not have to be completely opaque any more than the other rendered content has to be completely opaque. I understand the limitations of the device with regards to opacity, but I do not understand why you think that shadows require an opacity beyond that provided for other rendered elements of the display.

          • Caven

            This isn’t about opacity. It’s about the fact that anything displayed in HoloLens needs to be brighter than the background its projected against, otherwise it won’t be visible. That means that any rendered shadow would effectively be glowing, which is opposite of expected shadow behavior.

          • Malkmus

            It wouldn’t need to look much different than this actually, just take the color out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMxMaG60SDs&t=2m50s

          • Caven

            But that video wasn’t recorded through an actual HoloLens visor. It’s easy to make nice looking composites when one doesn’t have to deal with the limitations of the actual hardware. Here’s a much more accurate video of what the view through a HoloLens looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ELNowFnUgM

            At the 1:03 mark, look at the “black” menu bar at the top of the window. The left side of it is basically invisible, and the right side is faintly purple and definitely brighter than the door behind it. Then there’s the 1:15 mark, where the leading edge of the Space Shuttle’s vertical stabilizer is brighter than the white wall behind it, despite the fact that the leading edge is supposed to be black. In other parts of the video, the black components of the Space Shuttle either become invisible, or more frequently have a purplish glow that’s definitely brighter than the background.

            A “shadow” in HoloLens is going to be a glowing patch of color. There’s just no getting around it with their current hardware implementation.

          • Malkmus

            If you’re basing your thoughts on that video then I can understand why you might think that. As a Hololens owner I can tell you that video is very misleading and doesn’t accurately represent what the holograms look like when wearing the device. That might be hard to understand without trying it yourself.

          • Caven

            I’m sure the colors are much better when viewed directly through the HoloLens instead of through a camera recording through a HoloLens, But ultimately, I’m basing my thoughts on the principles of additive light. It is simply not possible to shine light onto a spot in order to darken it. Unless the HoloLens does not rely purely on additive light for rendering its view, the only way to “darken” a real-world object that I can think of would be to illuminate the entire rest of the screen so that the unlit part looks dark in comparison.

            If there’s some way to render a dark object in HoloLens, I’d like to hear some technical details as to how that’s possible. If a developer wanted to display a black (or at least gray) square against a real-world white wall, how would that be done?

          • Bryan Ischo

            So you’re saying that it’s not possible to see anything darker than white when you’re looking at a white wall in hololens? That device must be pretty useless then.

            Oh wait; you can; and it’s not.

            No offense, but I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Feel free to respond but I’m done with this conversation as I think you need to really understand the way this device works before you can have a reasonable conversation about it.

          • Caven

            Yeah, if it worked the way you described, shadows wouldn’t be a problem at all. The hard part there is that they’d need to figure out some way to keep the LCD panel in focus, since they can’t use focusing lenses the way a VR headset does, though even putting up with out-of-focus pixels for the purposes of opacity might be acceptable when there’s a much sharper projected image on top.

            As for HoloLens footage that shows colors darker than the background, I’m convinced that’s because most of the videos of the HoloLens are actually just showing a recreation of a HoloLens view, instead of a view through an actual HoloLens visor. Here’s a more accurate view of what HoloLens looks like, including limited FOV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ELNowFnUgM

            I’m willing to forgive the rainbow colors, since I’m sure that has a lot to do with an unsteady camera trying to shoot through a lens bathed in reflected light, but the brightness and opacity of the HoloLens-rendered objects say a lot about the graphical limitations of the HoloLens hardware implementation.

          • Bryan Ischo

            Thank you for that video, it is very enlightening, and thank you for being patient with me when I thought I was so right and in fact was so wrong!

          • dmbfk

            so the black in these red/black balls is only available in post-process on a computer and not on the device?:
            http://www.roadtovr.com/cybersnake-hololens-reimagining-classic-snake-ar/

          • Caven

            Based on what I’ve seen so far, that’s correct.

      • Of course you can create shadows using HoloLens. You can see dark overlaid geometry on the screen shots, that could be a shadow with less opacity. I am assuming we are talking about computer generated shadows from a computer generated light source within the virtual space here. Even a little planar shadow catcher would work although it would not warp to the furniture, just the hidden collision plane.

        • Caven

          Yes, there’s dark overlaid geometry in screenshots, but those screenshots aren’t generally being captured through the actual HoloLens visor. Compositing two digitally captured elements in a computer isn’t the same as projecting one digital element onto clear glass in front of the real world background.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but everything I’ve seen on Hololens thus far has either been productivity or lifestyle stuff, which I couldn’t give less of a crap about, or just gimmicky junk that really doesn’t excite me at all. VR on the other hand . . .