An Alternative to Microsoft HoloLens

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hands-on: Microsoft’s HoloLens a new way to see your world.

‘UNBELIEVABLE’:With strict security in place, the computer software giant impressed the media with its new creation, described as augmented reality goggles Microsoft Corp’s HoloLens goggles have hit a sweet spot between Google Glass and virtual reality headgear, immersing users in a mesmerizing world of augmented reality holograms. In its Wednesday presentation unveiling the new HoloLens 3D headset, Microsoft showed off a number of exotic applications, from exploring the surface of Mars to designing a drone.Microsoft’s Windows 10 launch event saw the launch of Windows HoloLens and the HoloLens headset, which are some of the most intriguing products the company has unveiled in the recent past. The glasses, which the US technology titan sprang on unsuspecting media last week, elicited descriptions such as “magical” and “unbelievable,” the first time in a while such praise was heaped on a Microsoft creation. A handout image released by Microsoft showing someone using the new Microsoft HoloLens during a Windows 10 press conference in Redmond, Washington, last Wednesday.

The Windows HoloLens is similar to an augmented reality experience (the kind many apps on smartphones aim to give) except that this is much more advanced, because users can wear a headset, like Virtual Reality goggles, to experience holograms in real life. Instead of watching movies or TV shows on a physical television, families will be able to watch them on a virtual screen floating in the air in front of them. Microsoft HoloLens allows you to pin holograms in your physical environment and provides a new way to see your world. * Microsoft HoloLens features see-through, holographic, high-definition lenses and spatial sound so you can see and hear holograms in the world around you. Microsoft says these holograms will transform your digital content (a say a picture or a graph or a game you’ve been playing) into real, physical objects in the room which you can physically interact with.

Microsoft executives said the holographic capabilities built into Windows 10 operating software — to be released late this year — would open doors for developers to augment tasks from complex surgery to motorcycle design. HoloLens wearers found themselves standing near a 3D representation of the Rover, free to roam Mars, at times accompanied by a NASA scientist projected into the scene and communicating through Skype. “This is the future of space exploration,” said the scientist, represented by a glowing golden spacesuit reminiscent of vintage science fiction films. Microsoft said it’s working with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology on the holographic technology, and the lab would use it for Mars exploration starting in July. “It’s a huge surprise and certainly a risk trying to bring this sort of technology down to consumers,” said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner, who attended Wednesday’s demonstration.

In fact, Microsoft has also found the first adopters for the HoloLens: Scientists at NASA, who the company says will use HoloLens to explore Mars using images captured by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Through a series of scenarios, HoloLens overlaid virtual scenes on real space, allowing wearers to safely and efficiently navigate rooms while engaging with 3D imagery using voice, gaze or gesture. Qualcomm and Intel are among companies that in the past year have demonstrated technology aimed at enabling computers, tablets and phones to show users a picture of the world overlaid with digital images and information. Last week, it suspended consumer sales after many people balked at the notion of wearing a digital camera and Internet-connected device on their head.

While immersed in a virtual world, users are best advised to stay seated or keep still to avoid collisions with physical objects they cannot see in the real world. * What does it mean to have holograms on Windows 10? Using Microsoft’s new holographic tools, architects could walk around their designs while clients are viewing it remotely, said Alex Kipman, a technical fellow in Microsoft’s operating system group. At the same time, because HoloLens is transparent, it won’t isolate families who are watching a show together the way older 3D goggles would have done. Windows 10 is the first platform to support holographic computing with APIs that enable gesture and environmental understanding on an untethered device.

Samsung and Oculus VR – which Facebook bought for $2 billion last year – are developing gaming headsets that essentially block the wearer’s view and replace it with an imaginary world. According to Microsoft’s official page on the HoloLens, the headset doesn’t require cords, wires or phones or tethers, has a transparent lens and advanced sensors, has built in spatial sounds, and is powered by Windows 10. A concept video also showed how holographs can be used for creating work-project models and for playing Minecraft, a video game where players build virtual worlds. In a press demonstration of the Minecraft app, users could blast through a room’s walls and coffee tables to reveal lava and caves behind and underneath.

For most of us, watching movies, TV shows, and sports is a social experience, and it would be a lot less fun if each of us was isolated in our own virtual world. As this Engadget piece notes, based on the images of the device one can see “at least four cameras or sensors on the front of the HoloLens prototype.” Microsoft has not given away too many details on what they can do or what exactly they are capable of. Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg has depicted virtual reality as a computing platform poised to succeed the mobile Internet era centered on smartphones and tablets — he backed his belief by buying Oculus VR last year in a US$2 billion deal. As for the “holographic processing unit” , Microsoft explained during the presentation that it was needed because the set was processing terabytes of data in real time to understand gestures, voice and map the environment.

Scientific experiments can be planned in the virtual space with another scientist, who appears as a gold figure that resembles a holographic Oscar statuette. People can glance to see text messages, video or other scenes in small displays, and also take pictures or video, controlling the eyewear with voice commands or taps on frames. A Skype video-conferencing app lets a tablet user, for example, conduct a call in which they draw instructions and demonstrations into another user’s holographic space. Google, which has run into challenges promoting its glass-connected eyewear to consumers, has made some other efforts towards letting devices interact with their surroundings.

We spoke and used hand gestures to place digital markers on different rocks, in an exercise simulating how scientists might use the system to direct the rover’s exploration. Microsoft will see what kinds of applications developers write for the holographic tools, though the focus isn’t on social and outdoor scenarios, where Glass was focused. Microsoft HoloLens, a holographic lens device, allows users to see three-dimensional renderings of computer-generated images. (Courtesy: Microsoft Corporation) But another exercise brought home how useful the gadget might be. Kipman called HoloLens ”the next step” in moving ”beyond today’s digital borders.” Microsoft executives talked about other uses – from helping a surgeon learn a new operating technique to designing objects for 3-D printers. Microsoft’s Kinect Sensor costs $150 to $250; HoloLens headsets combine Kinect-style sensors with several other components, so they’re likely to cost even more.

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