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Microsoft and Volvo's HoloLens Showroom Is Fascinating and Frustrating

You could buy a car in mixed reality, but should you?


Cars have a long history with augmented and virtual reality. Designers rely on immersive systems, from CAVE rooms to augmented-reality headsets, to visualize their work. Drivers have been using head-up displays for decades, even if they’re projected onto a windshield and not a pair of glasses.

Bringing Microsoft’s HoloLens headset to the auto industry, though, feels much bigger. Unlike more specialized augmented reality tools, it’s something that Microsoft eventually hopes ordinary people will buy and use. And the quality of its images is nearly unprecedented; you can almost suspend disbelief and imagine the objects it projects are real. That’s what makes the company’s latest partnership so potentially exciting — and, at the same time, so frustrating.

For about six months, says Volvo global marketing Vice President Thomas Andersson, Microsoft and Volvo have been working on a way to incorporate what they call “mixed reality” into the process of choosing a car. The result, first seen today, is a virtual showroom straight out of science fiction.

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