Upcoming: Microsoft’s HoloLens Augmented Reality Headset

Microsoft has followed up on its Windows 10 announcement by unveiling new hardware. Getting the most attention is the HoloLens, a holographic headset for Augmented Reality (AR) declared to be “the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen,” Seeking Alpha reports.

This seems the long awaited response of Microsoft to devices like Google Glass and the Virtual Reality (VR) headset Oculus Rift, acquired by Facebook for 2 billion dollars in 2014. An important difference is that the Microsoft headset is self-contained and doesn’t require an external processing unit.

Also read: 2015 – Virtual Reality Gets Real

Cyberspace Will Be All Around You

HoloLensThe HoloLens is a “face-computer that looks like a pair of space-age sunglasses,” with a look between Google Glass and Oculus Rift. The device contains a see-through display that allows users to see holograms in their real-world environments, and doesn’t require a connection to a PC or phone.

Wired has a hands-on review of the prototype by Jessi Hempel. The story includes an interview with HoloLens lead developer Alex Kipman, who is also the original developer of Kinect, the motion-sensing Xbox accessory launched in 2010 that became the fastest-selling consumer gaming device of all time. But, according to both Hempel and Kipman, the HoloLens will make Kinect seem minor league.

In the very near future, you’ll compute in the physical world, using voice and gesture to summon data and layer it atop physical objects. Computer programs will be able to digest so much data that they’ll be able to handle far more complex and nuanced situations. Cyberspace will be all around you.

Virtual Reality headsets put the user in an immersive virtual world with computer-generated scenery and sound, but the HoloLens is an Augmented Reality (AR) headset that permits blending reality and virtuality – overlaying the real world with virtual annotations.

AR doesn’t place the user in a game world but enhances the real world with synthetic imagery, from simple text and icons used for navigation and directions to sophisticated interactive 3D features, which might one day include avatars of remote people. Recent acquisitions seem to indicate that Facebook’s Oculus Rift strategy may also be focused on AR instead of virtual worlds.

The Microsoft HoloLens website says that holograms are the next evolution of computing, and the era of holographic computing is here. With this vision in mind, hardware, software, and user design engineers came together to create a new canvas for creators and developers.

Microsoft HoloLens puts you at the center of a world that blends holograms with reality. [Your] digital content and creations will be more relevant when they come to life in the world around you. There isn’t a screen to touch or a mouse to click. Use gestures to create, shape, and size holograms. Use your eyes to navigate and explore. Use your voice to communicate with your apps. Microsoft HoloLens understands your movements, vision, and voice, enabling you to interact with content and information in the most natural way possible.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will soon be exploring Mars using holograms of Mars Rover images. They will work as if they can walk on the surface of Mars, an experience previously impossible. This and other applications are shown in the video above, which is, to say the least, impressive.

Images from Microsoft.