One of the bigger surprises at Microsoft’s introduction of HoloLens 2 was the short appearance by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, a veteran critic of Microsoft. After a couple of years battling Microsoft’s position on open platforms, Sweeney is finally praising it.
Alex Kipman, a technical fellow at Microsoft, said at Microsoft’s Mobile World Congress HoloLens 2 event that he was honored to introduce an “industry luminary to tell us about his dreams for mixed reality.”
Sweeney normally comes out swinging when he talks about Microsoft. But at the event, Sweeney came out breathless and said, “Epic Games and Microsoft have been close partners for more than 25 years. We’ve really helped to shape the industry together with DirectX and Unreal, with Xbox and Gears of War, and most recently opening up Fortnite with crossplay for seven device families.”
And now Sweeney said they were working together on a new generation of technology, augmented reality and HoloLens 2.
“I believe AR is going to be the primary platform of the future for both work and entertainment,” Sweeney said. “And AR is going to play such an infinite role in our lives that we have to establish clear ground rules respecting everyone’s rights. That means open platform and open ecosystems and protections that put user privacy first. That is exactly what Microsoft is launching here today. So Epic will fully support Microsoft’s HoloLens strategy now and the long term.”
HoloLens support is up and running now in the Unreal Engine, and it is coming to all developers in May.
“Although I am not here to announce a game today, I am here to announce that Epic will support HoloLens in all of our endeavors,” Sweeney said. “We’ll support HoloLens as an open platform, and we will resist attempts to build walled gardens around our lives.”
Those words represent a big thawing in the frosty relationship between Microsoft and Sweeney over.
But Sweeney did not mention something that has been a sore point with Microsoft’s own employees: A $480 million contract with the U.S. military to use HoloLens technology for military purposes. That’s a use of AR that would not likely be permitted under the ethics rules adopted by Microsoft’s rival Magic Leap, based on our interview with Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz.
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