Microsoft Corp unveiled its answer to the world of augmented reality technology on Wednesday, and no one thought it could be such a surprise. The product, called the HoloLens, is a hologram visor and it is going to allow you to explore Mars, design digital concepts in 3D on your desk, and project the digital world right onto the three dimensional physical world, all from this coming spring.
Virtual enhanced, or augmented reality has long been the dream the tech giants of the world has been chasing, ever since we saw Princess Leia being projected from R2D2’s lamp in Star Wars 48 years ago.
Google’s answer has come in the form of the Google Glass project, while Facebook’s Oculus Rift has been making headway in the gaming world. Both these devices have focussed on different approaches to the holographic vision Microsoft has followed with the HoloLens.
With the power to augment the physical three dimensional world around you, the possibilities for creativity, productivity and entertainment reach truly futuristic proportions.
The unveiling comprised a functional prototype that was still rough around the edges, and the secret project that had been kept under such secure wraps saw no sign of opening itself up to the world at large as journalists weren’t allowed to video or photograph the experience.
(The video below shows what you can expect from HoloLens and is well worth the watch.)
Those who did experience the device in this still primitive form were awestruck, nonetheless.
The biggest possible let down at this point, it seems, is not that the device will not work or achieve its ambitious goals, but rather that the price of such a paradigm shifting technology will far exceed the budget of the mass market.
Analysts are optimistic that the average consumer will be able to afford the technology as it develops over the next few iterations spanning a few years.
The years of secretive development meant that the unveiling boasted impressive uses and scenarios for the high tech device. Some of these included manipulating virtual objects that can be sent to a 3D printer, creating a Minecraft-like game environment in a room, as well as letting users point to objects on the other end of the line in a Skype video call (think chatting to mom and being able to POINT at the button she needs to press).
Most realistically, it demonstrated a lifelike panorama of the surface of Mars gathered from NASA’s Curiosity Rover. NASA has already been working with Microsoft to develop software called “OnSight,” which will allow scientists on Earth to virtually explore and plan experiments on Mars.
As with any revolutionary technology, the true extent of its capabilities will become known when the consumers and creative developers all over the world get their hands on one, and PM is very excited to see what comes out of the already exciting mix.