At Microsoft’s Build developer conference Wednesday, we got new details about HoloLens, Microsoft’s play in virtual and augmented reality. First up, this “holographic computer,” as Microsoft calls it, doesn’t need to be tethered to a computer like its competitor the Oculus Rift does. That gives you the freedom to move around with the headset.
Microsoft unveiled the Windows Holographic Platform for developers to use to create apps for HoloLens. In a demo April 29, we saw that HoloLens can now run universal apps from Windows 10, like Skype or Internet Explorer, and create a “hologram” of them. There’s a so-called holographic Start menu, where you can launch apps and customize what you see through HoloLens, all by using a few hand gestures.
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As you move around in a space, like your living room, the Holographic app moves with you. That means you could have a Skype call that follows you as you walk through your house. You can also pin your favorite apps to the physical walls in your space or rest them on a table, so that every time you walk into that room, that app appears in the HoloLens. If an app is pinned to a wall, you can say “follow me” to un-pin it and have it move with you again. You can also resize those apps, making videos take up an entire wall, or shrinking a website.
HoloLens apps can be both two-dimensional and 3D. For instance, there’s a 3D weather app that shows a virtual landscape of the location, which you can place on a table or the floor. Microsoft showed off some 3D professional and educational applications too. Architecture firms can use HoloLens to create interactive models for building plans, and medical students can learn anatomy with a life-size 3D model of the human body that has separate layers for skin, muscle, the nervous and circulatory systems and the skeleton.
For Microsoft, this is more than just a headset for watching videos or playing games — this is the future of using a computer, without starting a monitor.
We’re still waiting on pricing and availability details for the HoloLens. In the meantime, what follows is what we wrote about HoloLens when it was first introduced in January.
There’s virtual reality and augmented reality. Microsoft is imagining something similar, but not via a headset. Instead, this is an immersive holographic experience. Yes, the experience is called Windows Holographic, but it works via a device Microsoft calls the HoloLens. Nate Ralph was there and got our hands-on impressions.
Microsoft’s catchphrases are “blended” and “holograms.” The idea is real-world pop-up immersive experiences, via — yes — a pair of goggles.