Wearables

Microsoft HoloLens: An AR headset that makes you see 3D holograms in your living room

At today's Windows 10 event, Microsoft showed off an AR headset that makes it look like virtual objects are living in your physical environment
At today's Windows 10 event, Microsoft showed off an AR headset that makes it look like virtual objects are living in your physical environment
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Minecraft in your living room, anyone?
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Minecraft in your living room, anyone?
It this is the future of computing?
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It this is the future of computing?
While consumer uses for the HoloLens are questionable, it's easy to imagine this finding uses in industrial fields, like design
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While consumer uses for the HoloLens are questionable, it's easy to imagine this finding uses in industrial fields, like design
At today's Windows 10 event, Microsoft showed off an AR headset that makes it look like virtual objects are living in your physical environment
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At today's Windows 10 event, Microsoft showed off an AR headset that makes it look like virtual objects are living in your physical environment
Microsoft's HoloLens
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Microsoft's HoloLens

With virtual reality capturing imaginations during the last couple of years, it's easy to forget about augmented reality. But Microsoft has spent years cooking up its own take on AR, and it's ready to bake the technology into Windows 10. Much like how the Surface was introduced alongside Windows 8, Microsoft has its own holographic AR headset to launch with the new Windows.

Microsoft describes holograms as "the next evolution in computing." That's a pretty bold claim, as augmented reality has, to this point, consistently fallen short of its lofty goals of blending the physical and digital worlds. But Microsoft's HoloLens, along with Windows 10's holographic support, looks like one of the more forward-facing moves we've seen in this field.

Instead of floating a display in front of your field of vision (think Google Glass), the HoloLens is more like Star Trek's Holodeck. Strap on the headset and you'll see virtual objects that appear to be living inside of your physical environment.

Microsoft's HoloLens
Microsoft's HoloLens

Similar to ODG's AR glasses, the headset itself is completely wireless and self-contained, so there's no need to tether it to a PC, console, smartphone or anything else. The headset has transparent lenses that Microsoft says will make the illusion rock-solid. And though the device looks a little bulky, the company describes it as lightweight and adjustable to fit any adult-sized head.

Similar to the latest Oculus Rift prototype, it includes spatial sound, that makes virtual objects sound like they're coming from the areas where you see them. It also includes a Kinect-like gesture sensor, and relies exclusively on motion sensing and voice control for navigation.

Like any self-respecting hologram from the familiar world of sci-fi, you won't be required to stand in one fixed spot to enjoy the illusion. Walk towards it, and the high-resolution 3D object will (allegedly) appear to stay planted in that same spot in your room. Walk around to its backside, and you'll see its backside, as if it were physical. And Microsoft says those transparent lenses will make it easy for you to move around in your environment.

While consumer uses for the HoloLens are questionable, it's easy to imagine this finding uses in industrial fields, like design
While consumer uses for the HoloLens are questionable, it's easy to imagine this finding uses in industrial fields, like design

After hearing about the hardware, you can probably imagine the potential uses for this as well as we can. Microsoft suggests uses like remote training, where your instructor appears to be standing next to you, indicating virtual objects and showing you how to apply them to the physical world. You could also have games that appear to be sitting in your living room, and simpler entertainment uses like notifications on your kitchen table and Netflix splashed onto any nearby wall.

If this all sounds a little pie-in-the-sky and far off, we don't necessarily disagree. But, for what it's worth, Microsoft is confident enough in the technology to make HoloLens support a big part of Windows 10, and featured it as the climax of its big Windows 10 event today. That doesn't necessarily mean it's ready for mass consumer consumption (though industrial use could ultimately be where this finds a home), but it also appears to be much more than a years-away concept. The company has fully working headsets and is recruiting developers to jump onboard. It says the device will launch sometime within the Windows 10 timeframe (though that could be interpreted in several ways).

Expect to hear much more about the HoloLens in the coming months, but for now, consider us intrigued. What do you think: are holograms on the horizon, or is this just another awkward headset that nobody outside of Silicon Valley will wear? Let us know in the comments.

You can see Microsoft's vision for HoloLens in the video below.

Source: Microsoft

18 comments
Jason Des Forges
I have a feeling Microsoft may well have come up with the Next Big Thing here. I saw the full announcement video and it looks incredible.
windykites
Yes, I can imagine the potential (ab)uses for this device, if you get my drift. I suspect this is not holographic, but employs stereo images.The clever part is how they make the images block out the background. I think you will have to be careful not to walk into a wall ! If the gadget is as good as the video makes out, then they are onto a winner!
martinkopplow
Could be a good approach, though because it is made by Microsoft, it will sure annoy* us with certain unnatural behaviour all the time, and get us to act pretty stupid most of the time. Also, our new reality will now be sold on a monthly fee. The fact that the OS is advertised as 'free' now, does not mean the apps, service and content are ...
Judysh
When will someone wearing this device hop on a motorcycle or get into a car and start driving? Fooling around with this in your home is one thing, but the presence of the motorcycle, real or imagined, is frightening. It will give stupid people stupid and dangerous ideas.
William Mosby
It already has "Hol" as part of its name, which makes creation of a deragatory term for its wearers all that much easier..... But seriously, I'd like to try it.
mados123
I love seeing Microsoft's innovation and ambition and this goes back to my first time hearing about Microsoft Research labs. Their Portrait video conference program was more sophisticated than NetMeeting at the time and despite most of their innovation not becoming consumer successes, they were still influential in the development of other technology later developed. I also think about Johnny Lee's contribution to NUI development and repurposing of technology to increase acceptance and affordability. When asked by these two business investors who I most admired and I responded with "Johnny Chung Lee," they were like, "Who!?!?" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Lee_%28computer_scientist%29
Tjoe
I like it and would like to combine it with simulators for movement, like Apache helicopter cockpit. How about heads up displays for inside of helmets too with some great sound?
Lbrewer42
IF this works as they claim, this will be great. But we need remember Microsoft was the one who killed the advent of the first VR goggles when the Commodore AMIGA made it possible in the late 80s. The goggles were the first to fit on your head and immerse you in a 3d world. Microsoft, rather than step up to the bat and make their software capable of similar things, instead used their marketing base to spread the rumor Microsoft had invented VR (using the same terminology) and showed off a 3D maze on a flat screen. They claimed it was VR b/c the software could keep track of where you were in a virtual 3D maze - it was a pathetic way of keeping the populous dumbed down to what other computers were actually capable of. Well - in the States people followed the masses. Europeans & Canadians were not fooled, and the AMIGA VR were used in arcades (I personally tried one of the units out in the Niagara Falls area back then). No, the AMIGA unit did not put transparent objects into your world - which is a really great idea, but had Microsoft not been so actively involved in milking the public for everything they could instead of making their OS capable back then, it is very likely a system such as these Hololenses would have been commonplace 15-20 years ago! And... again... Microsoft misuses a term for marketing. A real hologram is a much more cool thing than a hi tech "heads up" display. So congrats Microsoft... you finally have somewhat caught up and decided to market something with computing power that was possible in the late 80s! i REALLY hope it does what you say... but considering your staggering record of failure (not in your marketing department though - people still are willing to buy into your frustrating products!) , I won't hold my breath.
dsiple
Bill Mosby - true. And porn is ten minutes behind the tech.
David Han
I am amazed. Looks like a Home-Run for Microsoft, maybe a grand-slam. Where can I pre-order ? :)
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