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.

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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.

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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.

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  • Don Gateley

    Does this exist anywhere as a video we can view instead slides?

    • Scott Hayden

      Don, I actually found a great CNET video with a good cut of all three demos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrB5bSjAcxI

      • Don Gateley

        Thanks, Scott. That went so far beyond amazing that I’m speechless.

        I’m not quite sure what I was seeing though. It seemed to be a rendering of what the wearer was seeing overlaying a single camera view of the scene from another point of view. I saw it but my brain won’t believe it even though I’m sure it was real. What the wearer was seeing is another matter and pretty hard to show but I think it’s what all of us impatiently want to see for ourselves.

        • Scott Hayden

          The video in question was actually edited for time’s sake, but you can catch a glimpse of their camera set up in the original unveiling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6sL_5Wgvrg&t=6m43s – should clear up some of the confusion!

          • Don Gateley

            Yes, that was enlightening. Thanks. Near the end of that someone says he can’t believe he lived to see this. Imagine how I feel at 70.

            I’m not quite there yet, though, in terms of the experience itself. Even days get pretty contingent at this age so I wish they’d hurry up. :-)

  • Pessimistic observer

    Just finished watching windows weekly and according to them the fov was nerfed from the January demo. Here’s hoping that they only nerfed it in order to get the prototypes mobile in time for build. And not something more sinister like user testing found something or design couldn’t fit better optics or mobile processor couldn’t render more of the scene.

    • Don Gateley

      Agreed. With wings as stunted as are being reported it will never fly. Hope it’s a “saving the best for last” kind of thing.