Jan 22, 2015

Microsoft's Hololens or How I Finally Got Virtual Reality

Microsoft Unveils the Hololens

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled the Hololens, a headset intended to deliver augmented reality. Or, in other words, these are glasses that super-impose computer graphics into the regular world around you, overriding what is actually there with what the glasses want to pretend is there. Google made a half-hearted attempt at this with Glass.

I remember back in the early 90's a friend and I were gushing over the future of virtual reality as the future of video gaming. At the time, a person would put on goggles and look at a pretty terrible looking 3D world. It never received much attention, until recently. The biggest name to try this has been Oculus VR, with their Rift. This looks promising, but the biggest push is to giving surround video to video games; everything is still rendered and everything looks like a video game.

On the other hand augmented reality uses a computer to supplement what you see. There are already many apps for smart phones that do this. However, by combining a full-screen view plus the augmented approach, the Hololens would give a much deeper, lifelike experience. Although the first generation Hololens will in part be an evolutionary bump toward a truly mature implementation, here are some of the things we will eventually see with glass-based augmented reality:

  • Massive movie screen or multiple displays (without actually having any real ones at all)
  • Video games and training simulators. Imagine, for example, running around the woods by your house but now it's filled with zombies.
  • Repair work. Imaging having schematics to a device hovering in the air as you work on it.
  • Gardening! Instantly transform those ugly shrubs in your yard into beautiful flowers. I'm only half joking.
  • etc.

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