Today at its Windows 10 event, Microsoft riffed about holograms for a lengthy period. It then announced that it had build a holographic headset that appears to fuse the real world with the digital realm. Windows 10 will contain holographic capabilities in its every permutation, according to the firm.
The headset is called the HoloLens. Microsoft promised that it would be released inside of the Windows 10 “timeframe.” The headset is wireless, and does not need to pair with either a computer or a phone. It has its own CPU, and GPU, plus a new ‘Holographic Processing Unit’ designed specifically for this new kind of computing. Here’s what it looks like:
The product, of course, is comparable to Google’s Glass project, the Oculus headset, Magic Leap’s eventual hardware (though that’s still under wraps), the Sulon Cortex and other similar projects. Like Glass, the hardware is transparent, providing a live view of the real world. Salon’s tech does the same, but uses a fully enclosed visor and a live feed from a top-mounted video camera. Microsoft’s effort seems to combine the best of Glass (real image) with the best of Sulon (advanced digital 3D graphics) for a more convincing holographic experience.
The headset will lean on the holographic capabilities that Windows 10 contains — we haven’t yet had time to play with the device, so more details will come later. For now, however, it appears that Microsoft is doubling down once again on building its own hardware. The company seems open to supporting other OEM hardware that can take advantage of Windows Holographic, however, according to comments it made on stage.
In a demo, Microsoft brought its executive Terry Myerson to life as a hologram, during which he uttered a phrase that will echo through the ages: “I’m a freakin’ hologram!.” Move over, Shakespeare.
The HoloLens promises interactive virtual presence as its primary selling point, with big potential advantages for research, remote collaboration, engineering and design work. Quality of experience is what’s going to be the key to its broader adoption. Augmented reality has had some false starts on mobile, but in this context, it seems more viable, and thus more credible than it ever has before.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about the experience of using HoloLens to actually control and experience the point-of-view of a Mars rover first-hand, and in terms of compelling use cases, that’s pretty hard to top. Luckily, we’ll have some time later to test this out and see how much is science fiction vs. something practically useful.
Also, just imagine Minecraft via HoloLens. Yeah.