The augmented reality that stole the show
By Stephan Brown
On Jan. 21, Microsoft held a presentation at their Redmond campus in Redmond, Washington that unveiled their latest and greatest developments to expect in 2015. This presentation included more information about Windows 10 and its new features.
Microsoft added Cortana to the technical preview to show off how she fits in to the new Windows 10 User Interface. Cortana is a digital personal assistant, like Siri, currently available on Windows phones.
Microsoft had also officially introduced the Spartan web browser which can take notes, easily sharing them across platforms with friends or colleagues. It will also feature a digital assistant built in, i.e. Cortana, being the first web browser to do so. Microsoft also threw a bone to gamers and talked about high-definition game streaming between Xbox and Windows 10. Most people had expected these, what they failed to expect was Microsoft showcasing new hardware. At the announcement in front of the eyes of the press and tech enthusiasts, Microsoft unveiled Windows holographic. The HoloLens was the highlight of Microsoft’s presentation and a usable demo was available.
HoloLens is ambitious augmented reality hardware that is very similar to Google Glass except HoloLens is far more advanced. The HoloLens, overlays holograms in the real world in which users can interact with. The headset relies on gestures, movements and voices, to interact with and control its many new and diverse applications. Microsoft revealed a video of the HoloLens in action at the presentation showing off some of these new innovative applications, like playing Minecraft, and designing things with a three dimensional interface as opposed to through a screen.
Microsoft made many other great boasts including how NASA will soon use HoloLens to explore mars and overlay holograms of Mars Rover images for study. The lightweight and adjustable headset will be completely wireless and feature a transparent lens with advanced sensors that allow users to hear holograms wherever they are in a room.
The HoloLens is the company’s first foray into augmented reality and should not be confused with virtual reality like the Oculus Rift and Morpheus which place users in a virtual reality as opposed to blending the virtual with the real. This distinction is important because it is an inevitable source of confusion. There cannot be a comparison between Microsoft’s HoloLens and Sony’s Morpheus or the Oculus Rift because they are very different devices.
Microsoft has been tight lipped about specs, pricing and release date information but has said they expect to release a finished HoloLens within the same time frame as Windows 10, so it is reasonable to expect it to come out by the end of 2015. Windows holographic will be compatible with all Windows 10 enabled devices and Microsoft expects holograms to become a practical tool and integral part of everyday life at the center of computing for years to come.