Microsoft on Thursday gave the clearest demo to date showing the potential of its HoloLens augmented reality glasses to meld the physical and virtual worlds.
In a talk at the TED conference in Vancouver, HoloLens creator Alex Kipman took attendees inside the experience by placing a camera with a fish-eye lens inside a prototype device.
In doing so, Kipman showed rain landing on the stage and flowers blossoming, as well as voyages to Mars and the moon. Going a step further, Kipman also held a holographic video chat with a NASA scientist who was calling from a HoloLens across the street. The two appeared on screens side by side, with an overlay of the surface of Mars at their feet.
It was an impressive display, but the question remains just how soon Microsoft can deliver the technology to consumers and how closely their real-world experience will match that seen in the demo.
Kipman noted after his presentation that the demo used stored maps of the TED stage, as opposed to the way consumers will typically experience the HoloLens, with maps of real-world surroundings being generated on the fly.
It is also unclear when the units will be in the hands of consumers or how much the device will cost. Microsoft began taking applications last year for $3,000 developer kits, but has yet to give a timeframe or price for the consumer version.
But, like other demos at TED this week, Kipman’s presentation served to show what will soon be possible and how much further things can go.
“Some version of this is going to be a very big deal and I love being in the middle of it while it is still muddy and unclear,” TED organizer Chris Anderson told reporters.
Meta, in particular, showed an augmented reality vision not dissimilar from Microsoft’s. Founder Meron Gribetz used the company’s forthcoming Meta 2 goggles to manipulate virtual objects, conduct a video call with a three-dimensional avatar and do traditional computing tasks without need for a traditional monitor.
Later on Thursday, Chris Milk is going to bring the entire audience in on the act on his latest project, giving a custom app, Google Cardboard and headphones to the 1,200 conference-goers.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.