Augmented Reality – Microsoft’s HoloLens
Augmented and virtual reality devices are no new concept. For decades now humans have been imagining how the use of a virtual reality device could change their day to day life and transform them into alternate realities. These concepts haven’t really caught on in the past though due to technical limitations and a high price of electronics making them unattainable to the common buyer.
Microsoft’s plan to change this all though with their recent announcement of the HoloLens, a sleek looking augmented reality device that hopes to bring what was once an expensive and limited concept into the mainstream.
Virtual Reality in the Past
Virtual reality was initially idealized in the late 20th century, however computers and visual devices were simply far too lacking in capability and far too expensive to be practical in any sort of market. Moore’s Law has allowed the comeback though, with computers so fast now that virtual reality as an attainable form of entertainment is viable for companies to pursue. This was a main drawback of the original VR devices, which were notoriously clunky, slow, and had poor visuals to match.
So What is the HaloLens?
So let’s actually look at the device and what it is capable of. Its setup consists of three layers of lens that bounce light between them to create the visuals and an array of sensors and cameras that can detect your movement as well as take in the environment so that it can impose virtual objects on top of it.
Its essential function is to create augmented reality for the user. What this means is that you won’t actually be seeing a completely different world through the goggles, but instead you will be seeing the normal world combined with virtual additions.
Whether it’s 3D objects floating in mid-air, virtual projectors imposed onto a normally blank wall, or changing the texture of your environment entirely, the possibilities are endless.
Residential and Professional Solutions
One particular area which Microsoft has shown in their preview of the device is using the HoloLens to help people fix problems in their home with the assistance of a professional over the phone or via Skype. The professional can use virtual instructions to guide what the user at home is doing, assisting them in fixing it themselves and therefore saving a lot of the cost for the professional to make the trip out there. This is possible due to the cameras on the HoloLens, so the professional can see everything the user is doing right down to the virtual instructions.
HoloLens Will Take Your Environment to the Next Level
Another scenario that looks particularly appealing to many is the ability to transform your living room into an augmented version of Mars. The HoloLens takes in information about your room, and then imposes a virtual surface of the planet over it so you can experience what it would be like to really be on the red planet yourself. Pretty cool.
This feature will also hold a huge amount of use both for consumers and professionals, being able to take any environment either on Earth or elsewhere and bring it into the room you’re sitting in to gain a completely new perspective.
As for the drawbacks, battery life is one of the obvious early limitations of the product as well as size which, while relatively sleek, is still significantly more bulky than most normal glasses or headpieces. Other limitations include the use of motion sensing, which due to it being relatively new technology has a few technical issues. As augmented reality tech develops however, these kinds of things will improve with each iteration.
Release date and Price
Price and release date for the HoloLens are yet to be announced, with estimates ranging from anywhere from hundreds to in the thousands of dollars. One thing for sure though is that Microsoft has an interest in making this device appealing to the mainstream, so while initially it may not be too competitive price-wise, over time it will be aimed at being the same if not less than smartphones like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.
In terms of competing products on the market, there really isn’t anything that’s quite like it out there yet. Microsoft have done a great job at keeping this project under wraps without letting too much information out about it until now. They can obviously see the potential in the upcoming industry of augmented and virtual reality and are making sure they’re at the forefront of development.
The Oculus Rift
Another product that has shown large scale appeal though has been the Oculus Rift which is a completely virtual reality device. Unlike the HoloLens, the Rift blocks out the outside world and replaces your vision entirely with a virtual one, whether it’s a video game, movie or something more extreme.
The Rift has a huge cult following online since its introduction a couple of years ago and has prompted large business interest in creating virtual reality devices that can compete.
This also prompted the Rift to be purchased by Facebook in March of 2014 for $2 billion which shows just how promising the future of this technology is. You know when companies as big as Microsoft, Google and Facebook become heavily involved that there really is something here worth paying close attention to.
Overall the HoloLens is an exciting piece of tech. With the world becoming ever involved and immersed with computers, ideas such as virtual and augmented reality become more and more important for the average consumer. As these devices develop you can be sure that they will play an increasingly important role in how we live our lives, from consuming entertainment, to socialising with friends and performing tasks for our jobs wirelessly via the internet.