Could Microsoft’s HoloLens Be The Real Deal?

26 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Could Microsoft’s HoloLens Be The Real Deal?.

REDMOND — Microsoft did not use skydivers or stunt cyclists to introduce what it hopes will be the next big leap in computing technology. Shortly after Microsoft debuted Windows Holographic paired with the HoloLens Augmented Reality headset, upstaging Windows 10 at its own event, my cynicism meter shot up to 11.‘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. 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.

But one of the most important applications for HoloLens — and other 3D glasses that will inevitably rise up to compete with it — may be something much closer to home: making televisions obsolete. As I explained in the piece I wrote that day shortly after the event wrapped, it feels important to be skeptical of a product like this when it seems too good to be true. 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.

Perhaps I’m jaded, but after nearly a decade covering all sorts of tech, I’ve learned that every time something feels like a leap forward into the future, it’s usually at most a tiny step, and sometimes a complete stumble. At private demos of HoloLens in a carefully guarded lower level of Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington, cameras, recording devices and even smartphones were not permitted. Some of the world’s biggest tech companies are working on wearable devices that aim to create realistic, three-dimensional representations of alien worlds or imaginary creatures.

My comparison last week was Microsoft’s own Kinect, as back when it was called “Project Natal,” the original preview video showcased a whole host of super-futuristic uses that looked absolutely incredible. 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. 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. 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. 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. And yet, when all was said and done, the only feature shown in these early demo videos that works as intended today, I would argue, is facial recognition sign-in.

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. Now, Kinect is the reason the Xbox One flopped at launch, and has been relegated to the “cone of shame” department of Microsoft’s hardware offerings. 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. A digital avatar plays the part of a JPL scientist and you can speak and use hand gestures to place digital markers on different rocks in an exercise simulating how scientists may use the system to direct the rover’s exploration.

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. 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.

It’s also another example of an experience that takes the complex technology out of the way, leaving you to experience what really matters.” – The Verge “But if we’re talking just pure promise—and we are right now—what I saw during my small taste of Microsoft’s take on augmented reality was incredibly arresting. If devices like the HoloLens take off, virtual reality could become more of a route for those seeking escape, while augmented reality expands what we already know and take for granted.” – IGN I could probably keep going with about a dozen more of these, but all have the same impression. You can say that people say this about every new piece of technology, but digging through the archives, demo-ers were a bit more subdued about Microsoft’s Project Natal (now Kinect) when they first tried it back in 2010: “For right now, Nintendo is still the undisputed champion of motion-controlled gaming. Microsoft engineer Alex Kipman said the company had built programming tools, so outside developers could use Windows 10 to create more holographic apps.

But who knows how the final product will be received.” – Wired “Project Natal is the vision of gaming that’s danced through people’s heads for decades—gaming without the abstraction of controllers, using your body and natural movements…I haven’t been quite this blown away by a tech demo in a long time. 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.

Though there was some positive press about the product at times, most of it can probably be summed up by this Venture Beat piece called “Google Glass hands-on: This isn’t and never will be a good device for consumers.” As a Google Glass owner, I can immediately see how it will be incredibly useful for so many kinds of people. Doctors, mechanical engineers, any sort of field worker….But for us layfolk, the device only serves to make us look awfully nerdy, to make us economic targets, to make us less aware of the world around us, and to leave us more disconnected than ever from the real people we encounter every day.” So even though the HoloLens should also make us “less aware of the world around us” and “leave us disconnected from real people,” a major distinction is that the majority of HoloLensing seems to be done in the home.

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. But the fact remains that even among a relatively jaded tech press, the HoloLens is really standing out in terms of flesh and blood first impressions, more so than products that would seem to be cautionary tales of failure like the Kinect and Google Glass. I’d say the praise is more in line with what we’ve seen the Oculus Rift receive for years now, but that comparison doesn’t tell us much given that despite a promised coming wave of VR revolution, we’re still waiting for a consumer product that can prove itself. Follow me on Twitter, like my page on Facebook, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn, along with my new Forbes book, Fanboy Wars. 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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