For over a decade, Minority Report style user interface (UI) computing is something the big tech companies have struggled to bring to life. Microsoft’s new HoloLens that was announced recently at a Windows 10 event wants to change the way we interact with the world, and the company introduced what many have seen as the next step of working with a computer device since the innovation of the mouse in the late 1960s. So could Microsoft’s HoloLens be the future of computing?
This is not like Oculus Rift — its some sort of hybrid gear — as it allows the user to see the world around them and also lets users superimpose Augmented Reality (AR) onto the real world. So this alone distinguishes it from Google glass as well. The HoloLens, will run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 Operating system, so it’s basically a standalone device and doesn’t need to be connected to your computer. Whereas some people don’t see it as a computing platform, others will use it a social, entertainment, gaming and productivity device.
This is the first time we’ve seen Microsoft show off something that is still in the experimental phase in their R&D labs, which is something Google always does. So to see Microsoft show this off in its early stages is very exciting.
“Microsoft’s HoloLens is a new computing platform that could potentially replace desktops and mobile devices”
Among the demos, Microsoft showed off at the event was a way to do repairs. So you can basically have an expert directing you on how to do your own plumbing remotely. Imagine the possibilities HoloLens opens up for telemedicine, remote surgeries and diagnostics especially in the developing world. Other demos included NASA/ JPL scientists who are now able to walk on Mars to help direct the curious rover. In this case of NASA unlike others will be virtual reality (VR) in a sense that you are not seeing any of the real world. So makes this gear a good hybrid of both VR and AR. So while VR is basically for gaming and entertainment, Microsoft’s HoloLens is a new computing platform and its a real thing that could potentially replace desktops and mobile devices and its pretty exciting especially that we’ve seen it first from Microsoft of all companies.
The thing that makes me nervous when I try out things like the Oculus Rift is that someone could just sneak behind and hit me on the head cause you can’t see anything. They leave you completely exposed with their VR headsets, but with HoloLens you can see the world ahead of you with a superimposed UI or a model or just a big screen TV. I feel that this is the future of UI.
HoloLens is more that just a gimmick
There are a few problems I can see. For one, the User Interface requires your hands held out infront of you and that is tiring, but I feel like this is the first new UI I have seen in years that really has promise. Things like leap motion and Google Glass have not hit my inner geek yet but to me and especially other people who have tried it, think HoloLens is more that just a gimmick. At the end of the day, what will matter is how Microsoft will execute this. Having that killer app right out of the gate will be paramount, especially when developers get their hands on it.
One of the issues with Windows 8 is that Microsoft put out a whole new computing experience and then failed to build anything themselves (even the Touch friendly MS Office) hinging highly on developers. So I think in order for HoloLens to be compelling, Microsoft has to have its own apps running on it from day one when its made commercially available. If they release Mine craft, Autocard and Skype at launch, that would be enough to sway most developers to give it a try. With HoloLens, Microsoft has the potential at least to bring in people who have not been interested in developing for Windows 10 but would be interested in developing for HoloLens.
“For HoloLens to be compelling, Microsoft has to have its own apps running on it from day one”
So many companies have invested in future UI innovations, but frankly Microsoft seems to be onto something since most people who have used it are really impressed with it. The potential of HoloLens is very real and better than the idea of Google Glass. What Google did with glass is trying to force everybody to use it all the time and be out in public with it so that it could become an extension of them someday. This however, never worked out as planned. With HoloLens, Microsoft is basically saying that this is something you use indoors for certain experiences and it’s not something you use all the time. Probably one day down the road, the goal might be for people to decide if this is what they want to put on all the time. It’s not something that is being sold like your lifestyle has to revolve a round it or just as a segmented part of your life. It’s pitched for a particular use case.
Don’t expect HoloLens to be cheap, speculation put it at bit over $ 1,000 and will be available later this year. We expect Microsoft to releases an SDK for HoloLens in April this year at the Build developer conference. One thing Microsoft didn’t talk about is how the technology actually works even if we all know Alex Kitman the guy behind the Xbox kinect project had his had in it.
What remains is for you to ask yourself if you will get in line for a HoloLens? My answer, is a definite YES, whats yours?
Image Credit: Gizmodo