Microsoft drops the mic, introduces the “next PC,” HoloLens
With the next big thing looking more and more like it is going to be based around virtual reality, Microsoft today decided to go in another direction and skip right over VR in favor of holographic technology.
Microsoft’s new device, titled the HoloLens, is still very much in the prototype stages. But it has potential.
So, so much potential.
Much of how the device works is still being kept under wraps, but in practice, it is a bit like the next generation of augmented reality on steroids – at least in the most basic terms. You wear the device and see the real world in front of you, then the HoloLens displays programs on top of that.
A handful of journalists were given the chance to demo the device earlier today, and according to a report from the Verge, the HoloLens works surprisingly well for a prototype.
Users wear a bulky visor that covers their eyes and produces sound. The device has cameras all over it, and it connects to a bulky brick that contains the new Holographic Processing Unit (HPU). A chord then connects it to a power source, and by all accounts, it is a bit cumbersome.
But putting it on may be a glimpse into the future.
Microsoft showed off four demos. The first of which was a holographic version of Minecraft (although technically it wasn’t called Minecraft, likely to avoid fans being whipped into a frenzy over a 3D holographic version of the game). You can see a quick idea of how it looks in the video below.
According to those at the event, the hololens displayed a fully realized, 3D castle right on the table. Most impressively, when people moved their heads and walked around the table, it stayed almost perfectly still, with no lag.
A third demo put wearers on Mars. Microsoft even confirmed that it is working with NASA to possibly control the Curiosity Rover and see what it is seeing.
Connecting in a new way
In some ways, the least impressive – and yet most important – demo may have been the one that used Skype.
Those assembled were able to speak with a person located elsewhere. The wearer could see them in a window displayed in front of them, while the person on the other end of the line could only hear the wearer. That’s all well and good, but check out the video below.
In it, one person is wearing the HoloLens and speaking to someone on Skype, who is displayed on a floating screen. The other person, however, is able to issue visual commands to the wearer. The video shows an example of a person fixing a drain, while the person not wearing the hololens uses a tablet to show them what exactly they needed to do.
Imagine that on a bigger scale.
Think about someone in a remote location being shown in real time how to fix a complicated piece of machinery. Then take it one step further.
Imagine wearing the headset, and perhaps a set of specially designed control gloves. Then imagine those gloves and a HoloLens are connected to a robot. You could see what it sees, and control it remotely. Maybe one day we’ll send robots into radioactive areas or a burning building, controlling them like a drone, but with more detail.
The applications are literally endless.
According to Microsoft, the HoloLens can work with any program that is compatible with Windows 10, as long as the holographic UI is programmed into it.
The controls are still a bit of an issue, and the device is bulky and uncomfortable (so we hear). But Microsoft is calling HoloLens “the next PC.” That’s a bold claim, but it may not be that far off.
At the very least, the future is going to be interesting.