If you had followed along on Twitter or gone straight to the source and listened to the live streaming version of the big Microsoft Windows 10 event on Jan. 21, you probably felt the excitement. That energy was not just about Windows 10: Yeah, that operating system seems nice, and the fit and finish will probably make it the next Windows 7 — you know, the version of the product that corporations land on and run for a decade or more because it is just solid, reliable, and compatible. Everyone who skipped Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 will certainly gravitate toward a major migration toward Windows 10, and Microsoft understands this. It looks like a solid release.
But what folks were really pumped up about was the introduction of a technology and a prototype that was completely out of left field to basically anyone who watches Microsoft on a regular basis: the HoloLens.
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What Is Hololens?
Think of HoloLens as a better version of the Oculus Rift, which is now owned by Facebook, and a much better and more applicable to reality product than Google Glass, which was just abandoned — or, rather, put on hiatus until the fall. (Three guesses as to how long that hiatus actually is.)
[ Related: How Google Glass Could Still See Consumer Success ]
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HoloLens is a wearable device that takes the real world and inserts into it virtual objects; it is augmented reality at its cutting edge now. It is a pair of glasses through which you can see the real world, but it also has a unique display element that lets the computer paint images on top of that reality, in color and with an apparently astonishing closeness to reality.
No additional devices, like a smartphone or another computer, are necessary, although you have to wonder how long the battery that powers the unit will last. In any event, since this device is not yet in production, there is time to figure out the details. Let us focus on the bigger picture.
The demos that the company allowed some press to walk through were scenarios where putting virtual elements within the physical world really improves the end user experience. For example, a “father” was connected with his “daughter” via a Skype call, and the daughter was using the HoloLens while her father walked her through how to repair a plumbing issue with her sink — he was able to draw arrows basically right on top of her field of vision directing her where to put the replacement part, how to install it, what tool to use to perform each task and so on.
Rather than having to rely on only words to describe the procedure, he was able to guide the daughter through the repair easily. Another demonstration involved actually using one’s hands to interact with the virtual objects projected into the physical field of vision.