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Microsoft's HoloLens Makes the Leap to Holographic Computing

Princess Leia would be proud.


Microsoft on Wednesday introduced a new set of goggles intended to propel the software giant from the physical world to the holographic.


Alex Kipman, the Microsoft executive behind the Kinect device, unveiled the HoloLens, which runs on the latest Windows 10 operating system and overlays holographic images onto what you’re already seeing in the physical world.

“Today we take the next step,” said Kipman said during the Windows 10 presentation heavy on hyperbole. “We’re not talking about putting you into virtual worlds. … We’re dreaming beyond virtual worlds, beyond screens, beyond pixels and beyond today’s digital borders.”
Windows HoloLens allows for the projection of holographic images into the real world, allowing workers to collaborate on, say, a prototype of a motorcycle in the same space. The images would be visible to the person wearing the HoloLens glasses.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said he envisions the holographic technology having applications in the home and at work. He said scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory can use holograms to explore the surface of Mars (even as they control the Mars Rover from their Windows 10 desktop computers) or gamers employ the technology to project their Minecraft building projects into the real world.

Progress on head-mounted tech is proceeding in fits and starts in these early days. Work on the Oculus Rift is getting closer to a consumer version, while Google Glass, at least in its current incarnation, is no more, as of last week.

“I firmly believe these devices are going to popular in the future,” said Gartner Research Director Brian Blau. “They’re going to be used in many different scenarios, from entertainment to work. But there’s a lot of challenges along the way.”

Key to the success of technologies like HoloLens is the ability of software developers to create compelling experiences, said Blau. Microsoft’s decision to integrate the technology in Windows 10 broadens its reach for developers, and gives the company an edge over competitors, he said.

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