Earlier this week, Microsoft held an event to showcase the future of Windows 10, not to mention the entire company itself. While many of upcoming operating system features were not much of a surprise, Microsoft had a trick up their sleeve when they announced they would be bringing holographic computing to the world. Their latest creation – HoloLens.
The HoloLens Experience – Minecraft everywhere!
Microsoft isn’t afraid of being bold, and their HoloLens website’s opening line shows that to be true, when it proclaims “the era of holographic computing is here”. That’s right, real holograms that appear to float in space around you. Whether you are building a motorcycle at office, using Pinterest in your living room, checking weather in the kitchen or making endless Minecraft landscapes in the recreation room.
To get started, just slip on your headset and… wait. Oh, no. Did I just say headset? Aren’t these the holograms of our dreams – the ones where Marty McFly almost gets eaten by a digital shark in the fictional Back to the Future movie series? Not exactly.
However, here is the deal, I am the WinBeta skeptic – some of you know it and don’t mind it, but others of you hate it (trust it, I have hate mail to prove it), and despite being skeptical about HoloLens, I am more excited than Augustus Gloop in a chocolate factory. So, before we start planning our virtual adventures at the beach and fighting zombies on the streets of New York, let us talk.
Holograms or Augmented Reality – why not both?
While Microsoft’s HoloLens project does fit the technical definition of what a Hologram is, the technology showcased is more commonly referred to as augmented reality. This alternative way of seeing things, augmented reality, is a system in which computerized images are laid out upon the real world.
Augmented reality in itself is extremely exciting – it is the future technology we have seen in many movies. Imagine the world where digital information is automatically placed in front of you when needed. You are walking down the street looking for lunch, and by merely looking at a local eatery, the location’s Yelp review pops up – this is the dream.
Microsoft’s augmented reality headset doesn’t seem comparable to a product we would want to try out on the streets though – they are quite bulky. However, don’t misunderstand me, I would wear these glasses if they weighed five pounds and required a connected battery backpack – I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a child.
The future is here – give me a pair.
In reality, Microsoft’s HoloLens creation is a purpose driven solution. Unlike Google GLASS, HoloLens appears to be something that you might put on at a desk or to experience entertainment, not something that you would walk around all day wearing. As the future goes on, we do expect them to get smaller – that is simply as technology works; then one day, you will see me grabbing a Starbucks and looking at the “secret menu” that floats in front of my face.
They are a bit large for a reason, of course – there is a lot of tech in there. While I don’t have a spec list or unit to teardown, images quite easily show two stereoscopic lenses (one above each eye) and two pieces of glass that we assume images are projected onto the surface. We imagine the large black Robocop style shield is more to pull together the look than serve as a technological need.
How ever you wish to define HoloLens is okay with me – call it holograms, call it augmented reality – I just want to wear a pair. In addition, as Microsoft says, “this is just the beginning.”