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Productivity And Entertainment: The HoloLens

Everything you need to know about Microsoft's HoloLens
Productivity And Entertainment: The HoloLens © 2017 Microsoft

HoloLens projects digital constructs (augmented reality) over its transparent visor, which means that your vision is never impaired. 

Microsoft announced the HoloLens at their January event this year, and entered into the world of virtual reality. And although we saw it again at E3 2015, we haven’t heard much about it since.

Microsoft’s first entry into the virtual and augmented reality industry, the headset projects digital constructs (augmented reality) over its transparent visor, which means that your vision is never impaired. Instead, it looks like these digital constructs have been added to the room, where you can analyze and interact with them.

Instead, it looks like these digital constructs have been added to the room, where you can analyze and interact with them. 

Competition

Frankly, there is quite a bit that sets HoloLens apart from its competitors, such as Sony’s Project Morpheus, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Where all the others are virtual reality headsets, that immerse the user is a completely new world, HoloLens, however, has much larger ramifications for our own world. Augmented reality is very much a live view of the real, physical world.

HoloLens’ biggest competitor is relatively unknown Magic Leap, which is also a an augmented reality (AR), rather than VR. Magic Leap also has images and data that appear within the user’s field of vision, instead of blocking out their vision entirely and replacing it with an immersive VR experience.

The main difference between the two is that although both offer massive improvements to both the entertainment and productivity industries, Magic Leap has focused more on entertainment, whereas Microsoft has focused on productivity.

Features

Microsoft has already provided several videos on HoloLens’ YouTube channel on just exactly how HoloLens will be useful. Mainly, Microsoft has focused on the medical and educational benefits of the headset. In the video below, a medical student is able to see multiple layers of the human body and observe a 3D heart. By using AR, Microsoft claims that medical students will better understand how systems function.

However, it’s important to remember that Microsoft is touting this as both a tool and toy, with productivity applications such as studio models alongside games.

Importantly, the digital constructs, or the AR, will not extend the entire field of view, and will instead be allocated to a smaller, central area.

Specs

It allows for wireless charging and its new feature, RealSense gesture control is also supported, which allows for handsfree control mechanics while interacting with the technology. 

While still relatively unknown, Project Leader Alex Kipman has said that the headset is composed of “see-through holographic HD lenses”, which means the screen is either 1080 pixels, also known as “Full HD”, or 720 pixels, which is less impressive, but still technically HD.

The processor will be Intel’s Cherry Trail chipset, which is the all new line of tablet CPUs, which is smaller and much faster than the Bay Trail predecessors. It also allows for wireless charging. As part of a new feature, RealSense gesture control is also supported, which allows for handsfree control mechanics while interacting with the technology. Cherry Trail can stream music, movies, videos and apps from small windows to larger external screens wireless thanks to its WiDi technology.

Alongside the CPU and GPU is the HPU, or “Holographic Processing Unit”, which monitors the integration and interaction between actual reality and augmented reality on the screen.

It’s most likely it will be outfitted with Kinect 2.0 sensors, alongside depth and 1080 pixel color cameras, as well as an infrared sensor.

Apps/Games

Obviously, HoloLens is designed for more than just work. That’s why there is also entertainment on board. Oculus has their own VR Cinema app that allows the user to be immersed in a 3D giant virtual movie theatre, where users can then watch 2D movies and videos. It seems like Microsoft will have their own version of this as well, including plans to partner up with Netflix.

Also possible will be 3D images of weather forecasts and social network feeds embedded into the screen. Skype will also have its own HoloLens app, so that users can see each other’s screens and make their own edits and annotations.

Games will also feature prominently. In addition to “HoloPets”, perhaps a tamagotchi-style pet game, we know at the very least, Minecraft will also be on board.

Rather than a recreation of Minecraft, it is a first-person perspective of the game, where users can view other players from above, and also explore the scenery below. It allows users to explore the game in full 3D.

As HoloLens is a completely standalone Windows 10 product, where its competitors like Oculus Rift require an external power source like a computer to operate, it’s likely that the price will run a bit higher. 

Price/Release Date 

As HoloLens is a completely standalone Windows 10 product, where its competitors like Oculus Rift require an external power source like a computer to operate, it’s likely that the price will run a bit higher. Microsoft is calling it an “all-purpose computing tool”, that is useful for work and productivity, as well as entertainment, sets its apart from game-centric rivals like Sony’s Project Morpheus.

Where Oculus Rift is likely to go on sale for around £350, it’s possible that HoloLens will have a price tag of £500-£600.

On the other hand though, the CPU is notoriously cheap (only $30 per tray of chips), which means that it could actually be even cheaper than the Oculus Rift.

As for the release date, all we know is it’s supposed to be released around the time of Windows 10. This means it could arrive with the final version of Windows 10 at the end of the year, or it could arrive at any time within the Windows 10 life cycle, so basically, any time in the next year.

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