Thursday, 22 January 2015

Microsoft's new augmented reality goggles: HoloLens

Recently, Microsoft has been lagging behind companies such as Apple and Google when it comes to innovation however, at their Windows 10 event during January, that all changed when they announced a holographic headset called Microsoft HoloLens.

Microsoft HoloLens
HoloLens looks like something which has been plucked straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. Once a user puts the headset on, it spatially maps the world around them so they can look through HD lenses into an augmented reality world. In this digital world, they can play games (Minecraft was demonstrated in Microsoft’s announcement), make Skype calls, overlay designs on reality, and much more. All of these scenarios allow the user to move around and look at the holograms in 3D like they were really there. This is never-seen-before, exciting new technology isn’t something you would usually expect from Microsoft.

Microsoft says that the HoloLens includes a high-end CPU but that they needed to invent a new processor especially for this device because there isn’t currently one available that would have done the job well enough. This decision seems to have paid off because there has been almost no lag at all in the test demos.

HoloLens runs a special version of Windows 10 called Windows Holographic and Microsoft claims that Windows 10 apps can be adapted so that they work with the headset.

The user interface on Windows Holographic
Although Microsoft says HoloLens will ‘transform you living room into a surreal gaming environment’, the main demonstration of Windows Holographic featured an employee using HoloStudio – a Microsoft design studio which they said lets you ‘build 3D… in 3D’ – to construct a quad-copter out of various different shapes. Once the holographic app was launched, a 3D toolbox appeared which was full of different shapes with different holographic textures and paints. Users can summon these different items in two different ways: either by voice or by staring at what you need – HoloLens understands both. The words ‘tap and gaze, and tap again’ were repeated constantly during this demo emphasising how simple HoloLens is to use. Then, to put the icing on the cake, they announced that products built in HoloStudio could be 3D printed within minutes.

The outro to this unorthodox yet intriguing announcement was a video featuring Scientists explaining how, by this summer, they will be using HoloLens to both control Mars rovers and to immerse themselves in the Martian landscape.