The future of computing moves closer as Microsoft starts shipping the development edition of HoloLens, its augmented reality viewer.
What makes HoloLens different from VR viewers, and way cooler, is that HoloLens is basically an untethered holographic computer running on Windows 10. It is built into a headset that allows the user to see, hear, interact with, and place holograms into their physical environment, whether in their office or their own home. It runs independently of any wires, phones or PC connection, and uses high-definition clear glass-like lenses and spatial sound technology to create an immersive, interactive holographic experience, instead of immersing you in a completely fictional world on a screen.
It costs US $3,000 per headset and is only available to approved windows software developers and Microsoft enterprise partners in the US and Canada, allowing developers to start making games and apps for the imminent commercial headset. However, no consumer launch date has been cited.
Numerous pilots and proofs of concept are being trialled by a huge variety of different industries. HoloLens has the potential to transform our lives and change for the better the way we work, communicate, learn and play. Let’s see how:
- Nasa have built applications to support engineers responsible for the design and assembly of spacecraft, and astronauts on the International Space Station and scientists are using the Mars OnSight tool in mission operations
- Volvo are exploring using the technology in their car showrooms to help customers see safety features in action, and to help personalise new cars as well as in their manufacturing processes.
- Lowe’s a US chain of retail home improvement and appliance stores, are redefining how consumers think about home improvement – starting with the kitchen.
- HoloStudio is a modeling application that lets you build 3D models in space that you can then print out and make real.
- Skype allows users to see through the eyes of the person they are speaking to, instead of viewing them. Demonstrations have centred on giving and receiving instructions on how to do something, such as plumbing!
- Holoportation projects a live hologram of a person into another room, where they can interact with whoever is present in real time as though they were actually there. In effect, virtual teleportation!
- Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine will use HoloLens as a core tool in their curriculum.
- Nasa have further developed the OnSight tool to provide the public with the ability to explore Mars with Buzz Aldrin at Destination Mars, a new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex, opening this summer.
- HoloTour allows travellers to enjoy a virtual trip by transporting them to a different location such as Rome or Machu Picchu, and experience it like they are really there, by letting them walk around the location and get up close to objects. The app is available to buy in the Windows store.
- And of course Gaming! Three games come with HoloLens: ‘Fragments’, a crime-drama game that has players investigating for clues in their own homes, ‘Young Conker’, which takes a 90’s game character and puts him in a new game, set in the users house, and ‘RoboRaid’, where robots burst through the walls of the room you’re in and you have to shoot them down with a gun mounted to your actual arm!
HoloLens is billed as a device that gets things done, rather than your new best friend. You put it on to do something, and then take it off when you’re finished. If you’re an architect, you use HoloStudio to work with models. If you’re an engineer, you put it on to work with cars. If you’re in a business meeting, you use holoportation to interact with your colleagues in another country. You’re not going to wear the device to wander around in public! HoloLens is a new category of device, a complement to, not an upgraded version of the kinds of devices we already have.
The general consensus from techies is that it’s awesome; as a non-geek technophobe whose only gadget is an iPhone with a cracked screen, even I must admit to getting excited. HoloLens will transform how we interact with our world, especially as it seems like it might actually live up to the hype. We must wait to see how far the developers can take it, but its potential only feels limited by our imagination! What do you think it could for your brand?