Microsoft HoloLens might be a name that raises a few eyebrows at first, but there are good reasons why said brows should be quizzical rather than sceptical. Quite simply, HoloLens has the potential to re-define the future of computing as we know it. Microsoft recently revealed plans for its prototype along with the anouncement of its Windows 10 software, and the reason tech journos from London, to New York, to Tokyo and back are salivating over this funky looking headset is how it may offer something many have dreamed of since childhood; essentially the HoloDeck of the USS Enterprise mounted on your face.
A man walks into his studio at home. On the table in front of him a holographic display of the summer home he is designing springs up. Though it is an intangible object it in fact looks as real and solid as any of the other physical objects in his home. Not liking the exterior color of the summer home model the man commands the color to change from green to beige using only his voice. Then using his hands he makes a gesture in mid air and the house’s exterior walls explode out revealing the three dimensional floor plans of the floors inside.
You’ll be forgiven for thinking I’m describing a scene from Iron Man or the Avengers–Tony Stark in his lab working with his latest holographic 3D mockup. But what I’m actually describing is a real product from Microsoft – it’s not one of those wacky concepts that is 10 years away, either. It’s something that will be released to the public sometime in 2016.
Microsoft told developers they could sign-up and a buy a HoloLens back in February. The price per unit is $3000, so pretty pricy. Microsoft hasn’t said how many units it shipped out or how many requests from developers it received — $3000 is a lot of money.
“HoloLens consists of a special Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) provided by Microsoft,” reports Digital Trends, “which enables the device to understand gestures and gazes while mapping the surrounding physical environment in real time. The device also sports an Intel-based 32-bit architecture, see-through holographic lenses with an embedded optical projection system, various sensors, cameras for capturing HD video and images combining real scenery with holograms, and Bluetooth 4.1.”
The HoloLens could be nothing short of revolutionary–it could change the world of computing next year just as the iPhone changed the mobile world almost 10 years ago. Here’s everything you need to know about the Microsoft HoloLens.
Microsoft HoloLens: What Is It and What Is It For?
If you wanted to classify the Microsoft HoloLens it would officially fit into the category of an “augmented reality (AR) device”. It’s a headset you wear that is packed with sensors that allow you to view virtual structures in your natural line of site that don’t actually exist in the physical world. For example, a doctor could put on the HoloLens and see a 3D image of a patient’s MRI scan appear in the air in front of him. Unlike viewing a traditional MRI scan (which have be viewed in 3D on flat screen monitors), the Microsoft HoloLens version would allow the doctor to more easily manipulate it–turing it with his hands; telling the Microsoft HoloLens software to strip away various layers of structures so he could get a better look at something.
The Microsoft HoloLens isn’t the first AR headset. Facebook is also working on one–the Oculus Rift–and so is Sony, with Project Morpheus. But the fact that three big time players are all into the AR field now should tell you these headsets could be the Next Big Thing.
The Microsoft HoloLens isn’t just for the medical field. It has myriad uses as both a tool and a toy. For example, an architect or engineer or designer could use it to interact with highly detailed renderings of the project they are working on. Teachers could use it to teach students how to apply specific techniques to a problem, and of course it has the potential to be huge for gaming. One of my favorite examples of how the Microsoft HoloLens could make our lives easier comes from an image on Microsoft’s website showing a girl’s father “drawing” in the air to show her where a piece of replacement plumbing should go on the sink she is trying to fix.
Microsoft HoloLens: Hardware
The Microsoft HoloLens is a headset you wear. It looks kind of like an advanced set of ski goggles. The awesome news about the Microsoft HoloLens is that it doesn’t rely on a computer or mobile device. The headset itself is a self-contained computer so it can be used completely independently of all your other devices. It has its own memory and storage. Another cool feature is that the HoloLens is wireless–you’re not plugged into an outlet to use it.
The HoloLens will feature 120×120 depth and 1080p colour cameras that, when combined with its accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer sensors, will allow the HoloLens holographic processing unit (HPU) to render 3D holographs on the unit’s display. The HPU is rumored to utilize Intel’s forthcoming Cherry Trail chipset, which also suggests the device could have wireless charging capabilities. It also has microphones for voice commands.
Microsoft HoloLens: Apps
As usual, the apps that are available will dictate how useful the HoloLens is. Those in the research and creative fields are sure to see a number of medical and design apps. Communication apps could also be plentiful.
But the killer use for many could be games. Microsoft has already shown Minecraft off on the HoloLens. And add FPS games along with MMORPG games and the HoloLens could make the Xbox One look like your Atari from the 1980s.
Microsoft HoloLens: Release Date and Price
Right now there is no official release date. Microsoft has said the HoloLens will ship during the Windows 10 timeframe, which means some time in 2016. As for the cost Microsoft has kept mum about this too, though developer models cost $3000. It is known there will be both consumer and enterprise pricing, however, and that an unnamed Microsoft executive has said the HoloLens would cost “significantly more” than a game console.
So, $3000 then…