All About Microsoft HoloLens

This Headset Takes Augmented Reality to a Whole New Level.

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If you’ve heard about the Microsoft HoloLens, you may be wondering, why all the fuss about a gadget that isn’t likely coming out for several years? And if you haven’t heard of this product, you’re now probably wondering what I’m talking about, period. 

Even though this device has yet to hit the mainstream, it has lofty ambitions. Below, I’ll walk you through all the details of Microsoft’s vision for wearable, holographic computing, and let you know what you can expect when the product does hit the market for both the enterprise and mainstream consumers.

The Design

From a hardware perspective, the Microsoft HoloLens is a head-mounted augmented reality device. It looks somewhat similar to other high-tech headsets like the Oculus Rift and the Sony SmartEyeglass, but the HoloLens projects overlays on top of what you’d seen in front of you if you weren’t wearing the headset rather than immersing you in a completely virtual world. 

The device is comprised of a headset with built-in sensors that capture your movements and what's happening around you. (These sensors also allow you use gesture controls to manipulate what you see in front of you.) Built-in speakers let you experience audio, and the device can process voice commands thanks to a microphone. Of course, there's also a lens that projects holographic images before your eyes.

Other aspects of the HoloLens gadget's hardware that are worth noting include the fact that this device is cordless, allowing the user to move freely without feeling tethered to a computer or outlet. Additionally, the holographic headset runs Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system, meaning it's essentially a Windows computer. As you'd probably guess, that means it's capable of some pretty powerful stuff from a software standpoint.

The Use Case

Such technology would certainly find a fan base in the gaming community, as the ability to project worlds and scenes before your eyes would lead to a more immersive, interactive way to enjoy Minecraft and countless other titles. The HoloLens could also unique experiences like video chatting with a friend or loved one on Skype while seeing him or her as a three-dimensional image in front of you as well. 

The more immediate applications for a device like the HoloLens, however, will be in the enterprise and business sectors. For professionals such as designers and engineers, having the ability to view a virtual workspace in front of their eyes could lead to better collaboration. Microsoft's already hinted how the HoloLens device could work for graphic designers working with the Autodesk Maya 3D modeling program, for example.

Microsoft has also collaborated with NASA to develop a 3D simulation of the planet Mars based on data from the Curiosity rover. Using the HoloLens, scientists could explore and visualize data in visual, collaborative environment. The augmented-reality headset also lends itself to the medical world, as evidenced by an interactive course on anatomy developed by Case Western University.

The Timeline

Given the fact that this device offers compelling use cases for a number of different professions, it's no surprise that the first batch of the HoloLens will be geared toward developers (who will come up with more software applications that take advantage of the headset's features) and enterprise users (who can give Microsoft feedback on the functionality, and who also represent lucrative clients for the company. Expect to see it roll out to these clients within the next year or two, with consumer models coming about five years from now.