Microsoft Joins Augmented Reality Race with HoloLens

Yesterday, at the Windows 10 Event, Microsoft announced that they were joining the augmented reality race with a device called the HoloLens. The HoloLens looks similar to a pair of ski goggles and, like almost all augmented reality devices, it superimposes 3D images and information over the center of the wearer’s field of view.

microsoft-hololens

Wearers can interact with the images that are superimposed over the real world. The HoloLens has multiple sensors and a depth camera that allows users to interact with virtual objects and perform gestures. So, if an app or game allowed them to, wearers could theoretically pick up an augmented reality baseball bat and smash things with it.

According to reports, the device is expected to run Windows 10 and apps meant for a variety of different devices. At a semi-secret part of the event, Microsoft showed a select number of reporters a few apps that demonstrated how the device could be used. Some of the demos sound like they were pretty interesting.

One of the demos was called “OnSite” and it was developed with some help from NASA JPL. The demo sent the reporters on a journey across the surface of mars. They were able to interact with the Curiosity rover (not the real one), explore the surface of mars, and they could even use gestures to command the rover around. Pretty cool.

HoloBuilder

Another demo called “HoloBuilder”, which was based on Minecraft, allowed reporters to grab virtual tools and use them to smash real objects. Farhad Manjoo, in a post on The New York Times, reported that he was able to grab a hammer in the game and use it to remove a real object (a table) from his virtual view.

“A Microsoft minder asked me to select a virtual hammer (a tool in the game) and start smashing the coffee table in the room. She wanted me, in other words, to use a digital object to interact with a real one. I did so and was stunned by what happened: Before my eyes, the real coffee table splintered into digital debris, and then it was no longer there. HoloLens had perfectly erased the coffee table from the environment.”

HoloStudio

At the event, there was also a demo called “HoloStudio”. HoloStudio is a 3D modeling program that allowed users to craft 3D objects. Apparently, it’s not-at-all comparable to professional 3D modeling programs, but it was fun to tinker with and it could potentially be a great learning tool for kids.

Skype

One of the most mundane demos for the device revolved around Skype, but it’s probably the most practical usage for the device. Reporters, who were able to test the device, were told to open up Skype. To their surprise, they were welcomed by an electrician who’s video feed was superimposed over their field of view. Not only could the wearer clearly see and talk to the electrician, but thanks to the camera on the HoloLens, the electrician was also able to see what the wearer was looking at.

Over Skype, the electrician taught the reporters how to install an electric light switch. At points where they got confused, he was able to look at their video feeds and highlight the things in their view that needed to be connected. This isn’t the first time that something like this has been done with augmented reality, but it shows how useful the HoloLens can be for ordinary tasks and maybe even enterprise situations.

Overall, the HoloLens has been pretty highly praised so far with very few complaints from people. The only complaint that I have seen from people who tested it was that the Mars demo wasn’t as immersive as they would have liked it to be, which isn’t that bad of a complaint. And, really, an augmented reality device isn’t supposed to be that immersive.

Some blogs have tried comparing the HoloLens to an Oculus, but that’s not really a good comparison. Oculus Rift focuses on virtual reality, not augmented reality. The Oculus is meant to take you out of the real world by submerging you in a digital world. The Oculus achieves this by covering your whole field of view with a pixel-rich digital environment. The HoloLens isn’t meant to completely submerge your existence into a digital world by covering your field of view. It’s an augmented reality device so it’s meant to add to the real world, not hide or take away from it. And, for an augmented reality device, the HoloLens seems to do that quite well.

Holo2

Sadly, consumers are gong to have to wait a considerable amount of time to get their hands on the HoloLens. Based on reports, the device is supposed to release around the same time as Windows 10. As for the cost, no one knows that information, but one could assume it will be between $345-$700 dollars because that’s the price range of similar devices.

Personally, I can’t wait to see the release of the HoloLens. Microsoft has a ton of cash and a huge community of devs behind them, so if anyone can pull off an augmented reality device, then it’s them.

What are your initial thoughts on the HoloLens? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section down below!

Source: The New York Times