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Alien holograms attack in Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens demo


At the 2015 Windows 10 devices event in New York, Microsoft launched the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Microsoft Band 2 and a pair of stylish Lumia smartphones. It also showed off another demo of its exciting augmented reality headset — HoloLens.

In fact, Microsoft is now calling the experience ‘mixed reality’. The HoloLens system — a cordless, holographic Windows 10 computer with an HD visor — features a suite of sensors and cameras that map your surroundings and project 3D images into them.

We’ve covered HoloLens before on IQ. We’ve seen how designers could use it to view 3D models and how gamers could play Minecraft on their living room coffee table. In the latest demo, Microsoft showed off Project X-Ray, which turns your home into a unique Sci-Fi shooting gallery.

It’s easy to be wowed by the technology — the way that the alien invaders tear through real walls and scuttle across them; the wearable holographic gauntlet that clings to wearer’s hand as they move and play.

You don’t need to imagine using one either. Microsoft used the Windows 10 event to announce the availability of HoloLens Development Edition kits, which will go on sale in 2016 with a price tag of $3,000. As clever as the technology is, it will fail without compelling software to run on it.

It’s obvious how the HoloLens mixed reality system is different to virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. Virtual reality is designed to be completely immersive, replacing your view of the real world with a projection of an entirely virtual one. But how is HoloLens different to augmented reality systems like Google Glass?

Microsoft HoloLens in action
Previous Microsoft demos have shown how the HoloLens technology could be used to talk people through tricky home repairs.

“With AR, the user sees a layer or screen of data that overlays the real world,” explains Microsoft. “While this data can be contextual to the user’s location, or where the device’s camera is pointed, it is not the same as being able to see holographic objects placed in specific physical locations or objects in the real world.”

Of course, there’s a drawback to the current technology — the holographic field of view is said to be limited and doesn’t extend to your peripheral vision. It’s something that you don’t see while you’re being wowed by the action in the Project X-Ray video above, which was filmed using a holographic camera.

That said, the HoloLens technology continues to look magical. But big questions remain. Can Microsoft deliver an irresistible final product and what will we ultimately use it for?

“Holographic experiences on Windows are about delivering a mixed reality that lets you enjoy your digital life while staying more connected to the world around you — transforming the ways you create, connect, and explore.”  — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

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