Junior gets firsthand HoloLens development experience with Microsoft internship

When global media was abuzz last month about the release of the first Microsoft HoloLens developer kits, Case Western Reserve’s Haley Eisenshtadt had a better idea than most of just what the recipients would be getting.

The third-year computer science major got her own firsthand view of the much-anticipated mixed-reality technology last summer—working as an intern on Microsoft’s Halo for HoloLens video game experience.

“I was so blown away when I got here,” said Eisenshtadt, whose duties included software development and engineering. “I was working on new things right off the bat. You dive right in. It was incredible.”

Growing up, Eisenshtadt looked up to the developers of the Pokémon and YuGiOh! video games. Starting in June, she was working on a legendary game franchise that had sold more than 200 million units over the years. Even more exciting, she arrived as Microsoft was integrating its new mixed-reality device into the game.

HoloLens “allows you to see your world in a whole new way,” she recalled. “It’s like WOW. You know, it’s like magic.”

Before long, Eisenshtadt found herself creating some of her own magic, collaborating with programmers, artists and other team members on various elements of the game. In one scene, an electronic globe that represents one of the Halo worlds comes out of the ground; Eisenshtadt helped develop the image with other programmers and artists.

Eisenshtadt also traveled with the team to Los Angeles for E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), a leading global video game event that drew 52,000 people in 2015. She was among the staff running the Halo for HoloLens interactive demonstration.

“It’s so incredible,” Eisenshtadt said. “To see something you’ve worked on being talked about in the press, and by fans.”

Upon returning to campus this fall, she dove into an advanced game design course that is a collaboration between the university and the Cleveland Institute of Art, along with a computer graphics course recommended by her Microsoft colleagues. She also brought lessons learned at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters—among them the importance of starting small, showing (rather than telling) people your idea, and always being open to collaboration.

“Haley is a talented student with a wonderful enthusiasm for the application of exciting new technology, such as the HoloLens, to diverse problems,” said Marc Buchner, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “Her work at Microsoft has stoked that passion and enabled her classmates to benefit from her ‘real-word’ perspectives.”

Next, she will return to Microsoft for another internship this summer, increasingly appreciative of the preparation she’s received here.

“Once you get out here [to Microsoft], you realize how much of what you’re learning is really relevant,” Eisenstadt said. “The classes at Case Western Reserve have set me up for success at Microsoft in the fact that they involve a lot of group work and how to organize people, how to identify what you’re best at and how you can best contribute.”