Holo-lens is Here

by Muhammad Gill

         Microsoft HoloLens, the 3D augmented-reality headset, is one of the company's most unusual and promising products. At the Build conference last week, Microsoft announced that it was shipping the headset to developers, and showed off some new partners and new tools. Dr. Bradley Peterson of NASA says, “I was able to try the headset again at the conference, and noticed some big steps forward over the past year, though there are still many steps left to go before it becomes a mass-market product.” During the course of the keynote, Alex Kipman talked about how HoloLens runs a version of Windows 10 and the Universal Windows Platform, so the tools are very familiar to developers. Examples he talked about were a Galaxy Explorer sample application, in which all the code is available on GitHub.

         For other examples of how the product might be used, he talked about things such as rethinking the construction process by using HoloLens to show how a building might look, and how Japan Airlines was testing using it for airline training and operations. “One big discussion dealt with how NASA is using HoloLens in Mars mission operations, a concept that was discussed at the original introduction of HoloLens in January 2015.” A recent update was an announcement that NASA is creating Destination Mars, a HoloLens version of a trip to Mars narrated by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin that will be coming to the Kennedy Space Center this summer, and was available for attendees of the conference to preview. Also, the company announced Skype for HoloLens, which brings a 2D chat interface to the platform, and the recently announced partnership with Lowe's to use the product for kitchen remodeling. The headsets that are shipping now are meant for developers and not end users, at least outside of a few pilot programs. The concept remains very intriguing – in some ways, it's easy to think about how augmented reality could be much more common than immersive virtual reality – but there are still a number of steps before we get there.