ENTERPRISE HARDWARE Microsoft Is Eyeing Business Applications for HoloLens

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Closer Look at Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Since Microsoft’s surprising January reveal of the HoloLens, the company has been on an 11-city nationwide roadshow to recruit developers to write apps for the augmented reality platform.With the Microsoft HoloLens, an augmented reality headset, the Redmond-based firm is trying to get developers excited about its potential as early as possible, opening a HoloLens experience section in the company’s new 5th Avenue retail store in Manhattan. Units are now wireless and a heck of a lot easier to put on, but ultimately it is Microsoft’s fully realized vision of a mixed reality environment that truly impresses. It’s easy to imagine HoloLens’ potential in the gaming sector, but there are other uses cases in a variety of verticals that could prove entertaining and/or efficient.

We’ve run down how HoloLens works with an in-depth hands-on earlier this year, explained why it isn’t a gimmick, and told you when the dev kit arrives, but it’s worth repeating that HoloLens isn’t virtual reality. Microsoft has opened up a portal to let developers check out the $3,000 hardware ahead of the Q1 2016 Developer Edition ship date, but folks interested in seeing the hardware are asked to sign up for an appointment before dropping by. HoloLens presents a virtual projection of computer-generated “holograms” that look and act like they’re part of the real world and may or may not look like the latest renderings from Redmond. I kept trying to wear them like glasses on the bridge of my nose, but the proper placement is to have the lenses floating an inch or two above your nose. Digital objects take on an expansive sense of scale and depth because you can move around them and view them from different angles, with their shadows reacting to the lighting.

The version appearing in the showcase requires having someone measure the distance between your pupils and adjust the HoloLens accordingly so it can accurately project what you’re seeing. Unlike smartphone-based VR headsets and computer-tethered rigs designed primarily for gaming, the HoloLens headset is a standalone Windows 10 computer. You interact with it in three ways: By using your gaze as a mouse-pointer for digital objects, by making speech commands, and by pointing your index finger. Instead of creating a glossy one-sheet on a new watch, HoloLens was able to show the watch in 3D, simulate the internal gears, even replicate the ticking sound. I noticed the limitations of that during a demo for Project X-Ray, a game in which flying robots bust out of the (real) walls around you and fire lasers at your face.

Imagine having a virtual teleprompter right in front of you, no matter where you look, or being pinpoint exactly what your audience is looking at during a presentation. That is because fundamentally, HoloLens is just a Windows 10 PC, albeit one you wear on your head with a room-sensing IR blaster and a holographic display built in.

Microsoft also sees HoloLens making the process of designing and printing 3-D objects a snap, which could help push that technology further into the mainstream. In the “HoloStudio” demo, you can place virtual objects in a real-world environment to visualize your remodeling or redecorating before doing any heavy lifting. But the coolest feature was the ability to shrink a virtual object, play with it, copy and clone portions of it as you would a Photoshop image, and then make it spring back to its original size simply by saying “actual size.” Imagine reducing the floorplan of a room, rearranging everything at small scale, then instantly blowing it it back up to normal size, projected as a “hologram” right there in the room. It’s free, and the three-part demo takes about an hour, but Microsoft says the waiting list for the showcase is already a couple hundred developers deep.

And in no small part, Microsoft also hopes it inspires developers to fork over the $3,000 for the HoloLens Development Edition headset, which starts shipping early next year.

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