At todays Windows 10 event Microsoft announced, among many other things, its new plans for the future of computer interaction with Windows Holographic and Microsoft Hololens. Together these blend the real world around you with overlaid interactive holograms that can be controlled with gestures and voice, in ways only seen previously in films.
Hololens is the name for the physical headset that brings these holograms into the world and is a totally self contained computer with a custom CPU, GPU and a new kind of chip called a Holographic Processing Unit (HPU), that will take all the inputs from the real world and overlay the holographic images. Together these chips will be able to overlay holographic projections of apps, games and 3D models in your environment.
Unlike other VR tech such as the Oculus Rift, you can see through the lenses on the Hololens, meaning that it is easy to walk around and interact with real objects and no processing power is spent capturing and then displaying the real world. Additionally all the processing is done onboard, so there is no tether to your PC and projections are not limited to within a few feet of your PC. Perhaps the nearest comparison is to the recently cancelled Google Glass project which shows information on a small screen in your right eye. In comparison the Hololens headset displays a full HD 3D image that fills your vision.
Hololens clearly builds on Microsoft’s work with Kinect and seems to feature a depth camera, similar to Kinect to detect the geometry of the world around you, as well as your gestures in real time. This can be used to scan real objects in the world, letting you then manipulate them virtually and finally send them off to be 3D printed. Microsoft has been working on this for a number of years in a secret lab underneath their visitors center of all places![yframe url=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aThCr0PsyuA’]
In the gaming space as well this could be pretty incredible, but unfortunately you will no longer need your VR power gloves, as the built in cameras will be able to detect your gestures. Minecraft was one of the examples given in this case, showing a Minecraft world built all around a home. While the solution that Oculus provides will be better for full immersion in games, there could still be some really interesting uses in gaming for the Hololens tech, for instance you could be wearing it while playing a game on your PC with Hololens augmenting what you see on screen into the living room around you.
Windows Holographic meanwhile is the operating system, that will run the apps and process all of the information from the sensors on the device. With it’s base in Windows 10, it will be easy for developers to create apps that are cross platform across all Windows 10 devices, from phones and PCs to Xbox One and Hololens. It contains API’s that developers can use and will not be limited only to Microsoft hardware, other hardware developers will be able to use Windows Holographic to build their own devices.
Availability is slated to be “in the Windows 10 timeframe” so unfortunately, we have no further information as to when we will be able to get our hands on a review unit or a final product yet.
For a roundup of all the announcements at todays Microsoft Event Matt has you covered HERE.
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KitGuru Says: Seems like the future is getting awfully close now. While this first iteration of the Hololens hardware does seem a bit bulky I’m sure this will be improved with time and it compares pretty favorably with the likes of the Oculus in terms of size. I just hope that we can get a hands on with this soon! How would you use it?