As I write this, if I look around my room, I see the weather, the NY Times, a stream of Fox news, and a large TV playing in the background. It's augmented reality. It's awesome. And it just might be the the next big thing.
Thanks to a friend, I've been using the developer edition of Microsoft's HoloLens for the last few days, and there is really nothing else like it. It's amazing.
Let's start with the hardware. It's a self contained Windows 10 PC. Of course, there's no bloatware. There's also no link to the past. This isn't going to run Wing Commander, although I guess it could. There's also no tether and no wires. HoloLens just works wherever you are.
Augmented, not virtual
Some background. HoloLens isn't the virtual reality that my colleagues, Georgia Dow and Rene Ritchie love. It's augmented reality. That means you're not looking at a computer generated world. You're looking at the real world, only enhanced.
If HoloLens did nothing else other than let me run Windows 10 apps all around me, it would be cool. It would be fun to have the worlds largest workspace. But there's more.
There are HoloLens apps, and they blow me away. For example, some of the sample apps are an AR creation studio where you can build your own Holograms. It's immersive and, it's awesome.There's a game that lets you blast aliens as they come out of your walls or furniture. There's an interactive murder mystery that takes over your room. There's a HoloLens-native version of Skype. And there are impressive demos of how HoloLens could be used in education, where the 2D world of the textbook could be reinvented.
First not final
Is HoloLens perfect? Nope. For one, the field of view that is your window on the augmented world is a little limited at the moment. Then there's the cost. The developer version I'm using runs $3,000. While that's OK for developers, it will be interesting to see what the price is when it ships to consumers.
Also, while the hardware I'm using might be final, the software certainly isn't. That means current apps are demos, not final software.
HoloLens is led by Tsudo Kunoda, who years ago invited me to Redmond to see his earlier work, Kinect. While Kinect never lived up it's potential, this time Microsoft is investing in refining HoloLens before it does a consumer release.
Microsoft pioneered such things a eBooks, Pen computing, and the earliest smartphone platforms. They all failed for Microsoft as, each time, the company somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As the world pivots to new things, and new experience, Microsoft is cautions. After all, Microsoft lost the markets for so many ideas it pioneered. I think its's amazing Microsoft once again created something brand new, something no one else is focused on. It's not VR, something that mostly seems like a new Xbox. it's AR and nothing like anyone has even seen before.
For Microsoft, the future is not a PC in every home or on every desk these days. It's a HoloLens on every face, and apps that don't take us out of the world, but make the world around us that much better.
There's going to be a lot more to this story in the weeks, and months ahead. I plan to keep an eye on what's happening in this world, as well as how it literally affects the world around me.