Who needs reality when you can have virtual reality? Enter the HoloLens. Designed by Microsoft, the HoloLens has a Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) that enables the device to understand gestures and gazes while mapping the surrounding physical environment in real time. It utilises an Intel-based 32-bit architecture, see-through holographic lenses with an embedded optical projection system, various sensors, cameras for capturing HD video and images combining real scenery with holograms, and Bluetooth 4.1. Sounds fancy, right? Well, it is. Quite simply, the HoloLens has the potential to redefine the future of computing as we know it.
THE LOW DOWN
Here’s the specifications. The HoloLens is an augmented reality (AR) device. The headset is a self-contained computer with its own memory, storage, and power source, and is loaded with sensors that allow you to view virtual structures in your line of sight that don’t actually exist in the physical world. For example, an architect could view a 3D image of a building’s blueprints in front of him. The architect could then manipulate the image – move, twist, turn, split apart, join together, zoom in, zoom out – to take a closer look. Basically, all the stuff you saw Tom Cruise do on his computers in Minority Report back in 2002. Or, to use a more up-to-date reference, think Tony Stark in his lab working with his latest holographic 3D mock-up while trading witty quips with J.A.R.V.I.S.
You could use the HoloLens to learn how to make repairs to appliances, fix the sink, or assemble the bed, all by hosting a Skype session with an expert or overlaying instructions over your field of vision. All the advice you’ll need, all the instructions you’ll need to read, will be right in front of you.
The apps available will dictate how often people will use the HoloLens. Apps in the fields of research, medicine, communications, and gaming will no doubt become available to make the HoloLens as widely applicable and useful as possible. We expect gaming to be the biggest field in which the HoloLens will make its mark.
There is also a movie capture app called the Actiongram that will let movie makers create augmented reality stories using the headgear and then record what’s known as a mixed reality capture (MRC) video for playback on regular screens. Make your own Gollum out of Andy Serkis, essentially.
CAN I GET ONE?
Soon. But it won’t come cheap. You’ll need a spare wad of cash lying around to be an early adopter consumer of this cutting-edge new product. The HoloLens development edition is available for a cool $3,000. Microsoft is keeping quiet on how many products they’ve shipped thus far, primarily to developers and tech whiz kids whose approval the HoloLens will need for it to graduate into a major consumer product. Facebook is also working on a augmented reality headsets, the Oculus Rift. So is Sony, with Project Morpheus, for the PlayStation VR. And the fact that three big time players are all into the augmented reality development tells us that these headsets could very well be the Next Big Thing.
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