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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Microsoft goes futuristic with HoloLens headset: Everything you need to know

Windows 10 HoloLens experience. Image: Microsoft



Microsoft’s Windows 10 launch event saw the launch of Windows HoloLens and the HoloLens headset, which are some of the most intriguing products the company has unveiled in the recent past.
The Windows HoloLens is similar to an augmented reality experience (the kind many apps on smartphones aim to give) except that this is much more advanced, because users can wear a headset, like Virtual Reality goggles,  to experience holograms in real life.
According to the company, HoloLens brings high-definition holograms in your world, where they integrate with your physical places, spaces, and things. Microsoft says these holograms will transform your digital content (a say a picture or a graph or a game you’ve been playing) into real, physical objects in the room which you can physically interact with. For instance, you would be able to actually play Minecraft as though the game existed in the real world and not just the digital world.
In fact, Microsoft has also found the first adopters for the HoloLens: Scientists at NASA, who the company says will use HoloLens to explore Mars using images captured by the Mars Curiosity Rover. According to the company, “they will work as if they can walk on the surface of Mars, an experience previously impossible.”
The Microsoft HoloLens headset.


To enable the experience, Microsoft also showcased its first hardware around this, which is the HoloLens headset.
So what are the specs and features of the HoloLens headset like? Well Microsoft isn’t revealing much.
According to this report on The Verge, this is a prototype device for now and the press weren’t allowed to take video or cameras when interacting with the headset at the event.
Microsoft described the HoloLens headset as “the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen.” This is basically “a self-contained computer, including a CPU, a GPU, and a dedicated holographic processor”, notes the report. According to Microsoft’s official page on the HoloLens, the headset doesn’t require cords, wires or phones or tethers, has a transparent lens and advanced sensors, has built in spatial sounds, and is powered by Windows 10.
There is a see-through visor to let you see what’s in front of you, there’s spatial sound to hear holograms behind you and a bunch of other sensors which will work in tandem.

As this Engadget piece notes, based on the images of the device one can see “at least four cameras or sensors on the front of the HoloLens prototype.” Microsoft has not given away too many details on what they can do or what exactly they are capable of.
As for the “holographic processing unit” , Microsoft explained during the presentation that it was needed because the set was processing terabytes of data in real time to understand gestures, voice and map the environment.
Microsoft has also invited other companies such as Oculus and Motion Leap to come work with them on Windows Holographics to develop interesting products and create their own holograms.
There was no official date announced for the release of the HoloLens headset, but it was said that it would come out within the Windows 10 timeframe. CEO Satya Nadella, who arrived towards the end of the event, also stressed on the fact that there would be both consumer as well as enterprise versions of the HoloLens headset.
Irrespective of when this comes out, the HoloLens, is definitely one of the most exciting product to come out of Microsoft in recent times.

Madhav Biju

Author & Editor

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