Microsoft has announced that its HoloLens will begin shipping to developers in six new countries this November, with pre-orders for the device beginning immediately. The company is calling HoloLens “the world’s first and still only, self-contained holographic computer.”
Developers in Canada and the US have had access to the device since March of this year. The new countries added to the development program will bring the total up to eight. Alex Kipman, a technical fellow with the Windows and Devices Group, said on the blog at Windows.com that “over 80 exclusive mixed reality apps are now available in the Windows Store. Developers are turning floors into lava, creating aquariums in our living rooms, setting off mixed reality fireworks, and creating new ways to improve the quality of life for humanity through the power of holograms.”
As of now, the product is only available to developers in most countries. However, in Canada and the US anyone who is willing to pay the $3000 USD to get one can order a HoloLens.
But what exactly is the device for? Microsoft hails it as “a more natural way to interact,” and encourages users to “go beyond the screen.”
“Holograms let you visualize and work with your digital content in relation to your real world, unlocking new insights and capabilities,” says the product’s website. Essentially, HoloLens is an augmented reality system for real life. Ideally, instead of holding up your phone to catch Pokémon on your desk at work, you put on your HoloLens and work on actual work related projects on your desk at work without the limitations of a desktop computer. In reality, HoloLens may end up another VR game system, like Oculus Rift, which was also released in March of this year.
David Robustelli, head of Digital at Capitola VR, a virtual and augmented reality developer based out of Amsterdam, shared a video of his team playing a HoloLens version of Pokémon Go, which has only been released a couple of weeks prior. The main video showed video captured from the HoloLens itself, whereas a inset showed the person using the device interacting with his environment. As developers continue to work on new apps and new ways of using the device, the true potential of virtual reality tools such as this one will become more apparent.
Microsoft sets their device apart by calling it ‘mixed reality,’ something that appears to be somewhere in the middle of the augmented reality of games like Pokémon Go and the immersive virtual reality of the oculus rift. Users will interact with holograms placed in reality through gaze, gestures, and voice. Sensors in the device track eye movement to move the cursor. Gestures open apps, adjust sizing, and allow the user to drag and drop like on a desktop or tablet. Voice activation allows the user to interact with Cortana for commands. Users will be able to interact completely with 3D environmental augments, presumably created by the developers who have access to the device now. Microsoft is allowing developers with or without access to an actual HoloLens to download developer tools and a HoloLens emulator to help get them started. The system, of course, requires a computer running Microsoft Windows to run.