Microsoft HoloLens

Last week Microsoft previewed Windows 10 to a larger audience. But they also had another thing to show.

Alright, so with the event last week a few things have just been confirmed. Let's go over the list quite quickly:

  • Windows 10 seems to go into the right direction. But they did not show anything beyond what has been known already.
  • The new browser ("Spartan") is cute and a probably the software Microsoft needs to fight Google. The UI ("chrome") does appeal to me, but I am more impressed by the new rendering capabilities and integrated features, like Cortana.
  • "Surface Hub" is much less innovative than portrayed. Okay, you built a TV. So what? We had that form factor already. But the device is certainly well made.
  • XBox (One) games on Windows 10. Yep, that sounds like a great idea, especially since it makes the compatibility problem with the XBox 360 seem worth it. Until now the architecture change has not been such a great idea, but if compatibility to usual PCs increases (architecture-wise it already did), that would certainly be a huge gain.

I guess there is not much to say about Windows 10 - it will be good, and it will do its job. So let's go straight for the Microsoft HoloLens, which went from zero to hero within minutes. Pretty much unknown before, it advanced to be one of the most anticipated products of 2015. Why? I spent one or the other minute thinking about it.

Google's Glass device was a great idea, which has been "released" ahead of its time. Also the typical Google method, gather at least as much input as output, is not appealing in times where sensitive data is mostly abused, instead of used.

Now Microsoft's device may seem similar, but it goes into a completely different direction. This device is all about output, not so much about input. It annotates the real view with "holograms" (projections of UI elements onto the surface of gadget). This is also not like the Oculus Rift, which is about virtual reality, while the HoloLens is all about augmented reality.

Perhaps no one would wear the Microsoft HoloLens outside of the office / his or her home. Its made for a purpose: Increase productivity in 3D environments / bring additional joy to games. This is also the only real deal for using perceptual computing, i.e. gestures and more without a screen. This natural user interface has been on our door for a long time, but now can invite it to our home.

Intel totally failed in trying to bring perceptual computing to ordinary computers. In the end, it was not the SDK or the camera hardware, but the purpose of the mission alone. Why would anyone want to use perceptual computing, while sitting in front of the machine? Also, why should anyone prefer this input method (indirect, 3D input) on a physical 2D screen. Here touch (direct, 2D) seems like a much better alternative.

Microsoft now has the right usage for perceptual computing. A 3D projection brings to screen to everywhere, requiring a novel input method that also feels natural. The HoloLens has a quite impressive implementation of such an interface. From the first demos it feels totally right.

I am quite impressed and I guess the HoloLens could be a big win for Microsoft. Now they only need to do the distribution, extensibility and pricing right, and everything else should be a matter of time.

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