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Bringing holograms to life with Windows 10

  • Posted on August 6, 2015

Windows 10When Microsoft announced that Windows 10 is not just being limited to desktop, laptop, tablet and phone, but will be expanded to IoT (Internet of Things) devices, they also introduced a complete new device running on Windows 10: HoloLens.

HoloLens is a combination of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). With VR a virtual world is created which replaces the ‘real’ world with the virtual world. A good example of a VR device is the Oculus Rift. When you put on the Oculus Rift VR glasses you’re ready to start exploring a complete new virtual world. AR is a more common form of interaction. We see it a lot on television and smartphones with apps like Layar. AR is adding an extra layer of information on top of the real world. For example you can add a virtual world record line on the pool during a swimming contest.

HoloLens combines the virtual world with the real world and creates a mixed reality. The best thing about HoloLens is that it goes beyond the screen and uses your world as a canvas to project holograms, like they are standing on a physical object. And they are not projected statically, you can actually interact with them. Resize the hologram, walk around it and interact with it. All in real-time. HoloLens opens up thousands of scenarios that previously were only imaginable in movies.

The HoloLens doesn’t have a screen. Interaction with holograms is therefore done with gestures, your voice and your eyes. The HoloLens is able to ‘see’ what you are looking at, and therefore it is useful as an interaction method to select, or to point, at things in the most natural way.

If you look at the HoloLens as a device, it looks like a pair of giant sunglasses with a headband. The HoloLens is packed with advanced sensors to capture information about what you’re doing and the environment you’re in. The high definition lenses are used to project the holograms. At the heart of the device is the holographic processing unit which is custom developed to process all the data coming from the sensors in real time. And all of this untethered and wireless, to give you the maximum freedom to walk around and move freely.

From a development perspective there isn’t much information available about the HoloLens. There also aren’t many HoloLenses available for testing. What we do know is that any Windows 10 app can run on the HoloLens and that it can be projected somewhere in the room. (We have seen some demos of Skype and movie apps being projected on the wall)

Another point of attention is that the HoloLens won’t be the only device being able to run Windows 10 Holographic. Any other vendor that builds a holographic computing device (and complies with the hardware requirements which are not available right now) could run Windows 10 with holographic capabilities on it.

There are still a lot of questions about HoloLens and Windows 10 Holographic and how developers can build apps for it. However, Microsoft is revealing more and more information and I’m excited to see that holograms are really coming to life and bringing complete new interaction patterns. It is still unclear which use cases are best for holograms, but it has potential for various business cases to benefit from hologram usage in multiple areas. Good candidates for HoloLens areas are gaming, business, science and education. On the HoloLens website are a few business cases with real world partners that looks very promising.

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

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