We’re getting closer to the device that will finally put augmented Reality over the top — after a lot of closed testing and development, Microsoft is finally making Hololens available to select developers. It’s expensive, but it’s looking more and more like those developers are going to be able to create some pretty amazing applications with it.
The HoloLens is Microsoft’s high-tech approach to augmented reality. Instead of going the Virtual reality route like Oculus, HTC, and Sony, Microsoft created a headset that would populate the viewer’s natural field of vision with what Microsoft calls holograms — virtual objects that can be interacted with as if they were physical. That includes 3D models as well as virtual menus and applications — all accessible while maintaining your natural field of vision, instead of the closed off world of virtual reality. It’s also a full PC, albeit a very different kind of one — it runs Windows 10, so it’s theoretically possible to get all your basic computing tasks done virtually.
Microsoft has shown off some higher-level uses for HoloLens since its reveal, including a virtual Mars exploration application that is now being used on the International Space Station. Microsoft is now ready to open things up by selling them to more developers. The asking price is $3,000, with preorders starting today. The developer units are scheduled to ship March 30 in the United States and Canada, meaning we should hear a lot more about where this technology is going before the year is up.
In addition to announcing the preorder program, Microsoft had a bit to say about the inner workings of HoloLens. From the beginning, we’ve known that the headset was always going to be a standalone, wireless unit (as opposed to the major VR headsets, which must be connected to a powerful PC to work). Instead, HoloLens has its own HPU (the so-called holographic processing unit), which uses light emitters to produce the holograms in front of your eyes. The headset will produce holograms with a density of 2.5K radiants, which refers to the light density — it’s not a perfect comparison, but you can think of it like pixel density on a display. The denser the light, the more detail and clarity.
Microsoft has also revealed that cameras within the headset can captured mixed reality video — your field of vision plus the HoloLens overlay — which can be shared with others. Meanwhile, eye tracking will enable users to control and manipulate holograms simply by shifting their gaze. Battery life will be about three to four hours.
There’s no telling when HoloLens will be available to the public or if the final price will be as steep as the developer edition, but this release is a good sign that things are progressing to Microsoft’s satisfaction. If developers get on board in large numbers, don’t be surprised if we HoloLens goes to market sometime in 2017.