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April 29th, 2015

Microsoft HoloLens Proves Mixed Reality Is No Longer Science Fiction

The Microsoft HoloLens shows us a tangible future where holographs are part of our everyday life. And it is not science fiction.

Hundreds of developers at Microsoft’s Build 2015 are getting the chance to be part of what the company is describing as “mixed reality.”

As far back as January, a tantalizing glimpse of the Microsoft HoloLens whetted the appetite for holographic computing in form of an untethered physical device. Often seen as a standard component of a sci-fi future, attendees at today’s keynote presentation were allowed to literally see holograms in the flesh, with Microsoft’s Alex Kipman eager to give more than just a virtual tour.

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“Holographic computing can seamlessly connect the digital world with real life,” Kipman said. “This mixed reality grants us permission to reinvent productivity by creating experiences not possible on any other device or any other platform.”

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Alex Kipman

 

For once it seems that the hype might be justified. Prior to the appearance of the HoloLens, the wow factor had been limited to developer-centric products at Build 2015. But watching somebody interact with his virtual apartment was certainly impressive … especially when it came to integrating this holographic reality with his physical future.

The Changing Paradigm Of The User Interface

Being able to observe the teaching potential for the device was also one of the highlights of the presentation, although it was hard not to love the real B-15; a basic three-wheeled robot that took on a new personality under the gaze of the HoloLens. Earlier, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had begun the keynote by talking about the company mission to empower every person and every developer, and there is little doubt that a holographic computing platform could play a huge role in achieving this.

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Kipman described it as a new medium to express creativity and shared interaction, using medical applications, the maker movement and the construction industry to press home his point. However, the emphasis was firmly on computer power and how it can be leveraged to achieve a mix of progressive data and real-world applications.

One major advantage for the HoloLens is that it runs on the much-anticipated Windows 10. This means that Microsoft can offer developers a universal platform for wireless interaction, a scenario that is only limited by the imagination of the individual or company concerned. Every Windows 10 app will be able to be made into as a holographic display.

Game designers, for example, will have the full support of the Unity engine with the announcement coming soon after Kipman and his team had left the stage, presumably to hand out the hundreds of devices that were being made available to developers as part of an on-site Holographic Academy.

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While virtual interfaces have been demonstrated for many years, this may be the one that takes off. Augmented reality has been touted as the next big innovation, but it simply overlays data over a real-world location. Mixed reality, on the other hand, allows the wearer of the (relatively sleek) headset to fix information to certain points and move naturally within the confines of the space.

Whatever the experiences of the lucky developers who get to play with the Microsoft HoloLens at Build 2015, it appears that the company has given us more than a glimpse of the future. Nadella described the device as “just magical,” a somewhat fitting way to close out a keynote that was inevitably going to center on empowerment and increased productivity.