Microsoft’s biggest event of the year, Build 2015, started today and amidst all of the Windows 10 reveals, the company also revisited HoloLens, the augmented reality visor introduced by Microsoft earlier this year.
Although we’re not any closer to knowing exactly when the ‘mixed reality’ device is set to get into the hands of curious developers, or how much the tetherless visor will cost, we’re about to see the device put through its paces by Build 2015 conference goers, as Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman announced that starting today “hundreds of HoloLens” would be available for trial.
Microsoft showed HoloLens working in a number of environments without a single hitch or errant occlusion. First up was a demo showing some of the basic functions of the device, which demonstrated how you can pin, move, minimize and maximize every cross-platform “Universal Windows” app like skype, calendar app, and video windows.
“Instead of ticking through menus, everything is where he wants it,” said Kipman.
The second live demo touched on the educational benefits of having 3D apps at your disposal, such as medical and architectural models that can move, act and react to user input. Looking inside a human body with the level of clarity and complexity that Microsoft has put forward with their on-stage demonstration is especially provocative, and may be one of the best uses of the device thus far.
The third and final app revealed a novel use for HoloLens as an external positioning device for DIY robots—which in this case was also displaying a digital overlay of an articulated smiling robot buddy. The robot’s bare wired guts were tracked by HoloLens in 3D space as it moved around, and because the robot’s environmental navigation was “not great at detecting obstacles,” depth information and movement commands were output from the HoloLens to the robot. Of course, what good is a smiling robot slave that you can’t customize? There’s that too.
So with the promise of “hundreds of HoloLens” coming to Build 2015 attendees, it’s finally time to see if these flawless demos and those we saw in January can match up to real world expectations. We’re exercising a healthy dose of skepticism as it’s still not entirely clear whether the live demos we witnessed today weren’t the product of off-board on-the-fly masterization (i.e. a more powerful computer was running the show).
Trimble’s architectural app and Skype have been announced for the demos, along with a “from-scratch holographic building application” for use with HoloLens called ‘Holographic Academy’. Hopefully conference goers will also have the chance to play with more complex apps too, rebuffing any notions that Microsoft may be repeating any shade of Kinect-related shenanigans.