Microsoft Corporation showed off its much-hyped HoloLens technology yesterday at the TED conference in Vancouver. HoloLens are augmented reality glasses that aim to meld together the physical world with virtual reality. HoloLens Project Leader Alex Kipman showed off the new tech in a presentation that shows just how far the technology has come. Past demos showed lots of room for improvement, but it now looks like great strides have been made in optics.
Kipman placed a fisheye lens inside of a HoloLens in order to show attendees what he could see on a screen that was behind the stage. First, Kipman made it appear that it was actually raining on the stage and made flowers appear to blossom in a magical forest.
He also made virtual voyages to the moon and Mars. The Mars visit used a very precise holographic replica of the planet that was based on data from NASA’s Curiosity rover.
He ended his demo with what was billed as the “first real-life holographic teleportation”. For this feat, NASA scientist Jeff Norris, who was standing across the street from the conference, showed up in full-sized 3-D representation on the stage on top of a virtual Mars surface.
Norris told the crowd: “I’m actually in three places. I’m standing in a room across the street, while I’m standing on the stage with you, while I’m standing on Mars a hundred million miles away.”
Consumers facing a long wait
It is not known how soon the tech will be available to consumers, nor just how much of what happened in the demo can be matched at home. A price has yet to be announced, but Microsoft started accepting applications for $3,000 developer kits last year.
Microsoft is not in a rush to release HoloLens. The firm learned some hard lessons from the Kinect, which smashed sales records but quickly faded in popularity because the market simply was not ready for it.
“When I feel the world is ready, then we will allow normal people to buy it,” Kipman told reporters at TED. “It could be as soon as we say ‘yes,’ and it could be as long as a ‘very long time.’”
There has been a lot of hype surrounding virtual reality and augmented reality at this year’s conference. TED organizer Chris Anderson shared his excitement with reporters, saying: “Some version of this is going to be a very big deal and I love being in the middle of it while it is still muddy and unclear,”
The device can map your home or any of your other surroundings in real-time at about five frames per second. However, Kipman’s demo used stored information.
The sky is no limit for Microsoft Corporation’s HoloLens
The applications of this technology are tremendous. For example, Volvo is using HoloLens to design its cars and enhance customer experience. Case Western medical students are using HoloLens to study the human body like never before.
The technology is being used by NASA to let scientists explore different planets completely holographically in a partnership known as OnSight. Headsets equipped with HoloLens are also being used on the International Space Station so that scientists back on Earth can help astronauts as though they were in the same place.