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Project HoloLens is Microsoft’s Answer To Virtual Reality

by Brandon Russell | January 21, 2015January 21, 2015 10:47 am PDT

Windows Holographic. I’ll let that settle in for a few seconds.

After a series of Windows 10 announcements, Microsoft on Wednesday introduced a new Windows Holographic concept that brings augmented reality to the next level. Imagine seeing your epic Minecraft build right in your living room. All you need to do is take the blue pill before participating—go on down Microsoft’s rabbit hole!

There’s a headset (of course there is, and it’s called HoloLens), which allows wearers to pretty much see holograms wherever they go. You can see games, apps, and more, all enabled right from the headset. It doesn’t look real, but Microsoft says the headset will be available in the “Windows 10 timeframe,” which is vague and leaves a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. But the Redmond company is making clear that Holographic is something it intends on bringing to the market.

In one example, Microsoft showed off Skype being projected onto a wall; in another, a Minecraft world was easily accessible right in the middle of a living room. Microsoft says the experience is a “mixture of augmented reality” by taking advantage of holograms and the headset worn by users. The headset, by the way, doesn’t look all that ridiculous, and looks no bigger than the Oculus Rift.

Microsoft sees a lot of potential use cases for its Holographic headset—not just in gaming or for home use. The company specifically mentioned architects walking around potential designs, or astronauts roaming around different planets. Imagine what kind of possible education programs developers could create. Experience the signing of the Declaration of Independence first-hand, or walk around prehistoric times when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

I’d love to see a movie designed with Windows Holographic in mind, allowing the wearer to essentially walk around the world while the movie is taking place. Oh how I’d love to watch The Hobbit films while wearing these babies.

When Windows 10 hits, the Holographic APIs will be enabled in all builds of the software, which means the experience will be wide open for all kinds of crazy development. When describing the experience, Microsoft said Holographic is a device “powered by human or environment understanding.”

The HoloLens is untethered—no wires or connection to a PC is needed—and Microsoft says it’ll support spatial sound, which means you’ll be able to hear holograms behind you. That’s similar to how Oculus is implementing “3D” sound for its latest VR headset. A high-end CPU and GPU will be included inside the headset, along with a third processor (a holographic processing unit). Other fancy voodoo includes advanced sensors and see-through lenses.

Microsoft showed off a real-time demo onstage, and as impressive as it was, the wearer still looked preeeeetty hilarious flailing around. If you thought Glass wearers looked silly, imagine seeing someone wearing HoloLens. But take nothing away from Microsoft’s ambitions; the concept looks amazing, and if it really does come to market, it could be huge. (But what about price?!)

Considering how early into development Windows Holographic is, the demo was still pretty killer; the wearer designed a drone, flipping it around, zooming in, changing colors, and more. In that specific scenario, Microsoft described the experience as a “print preview” before 3D printing the drone the gal just designed.

I’m excited. Are you excited? Expect to hear much more about Windows Holographic throughout the year.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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