At their developers conference, Build, in San Francisco this week, Microsoft gave media more information and test runs regarding the upcoming HoloLens Augemented Reality set.
The headset had previously been announced, but this was the first time media were given an up-close test of the tech giant’s latest device. The tests were among the first in the world for anyone outside of Microsoft and included writers for Gizmodo, Business Insider, Forbes, and others.
Similar to Google Glass, the headset uses lenses to overlay interactive objects and screens into real-life situations. Among the software used in the demonstrations was SketchUp, an architectural modeling program.
“Instead of looking at a paper blueprint, we saw where a new doorway was being designed and could look behind the walls to see where the plumbing and pipes were,” wrote Julie Bort and Matt Weinberger for Business Insider.
“We controlled the device by moving our heads to direct our gaze, with voice commands and with a few simply hand gestures, namely the “air click.” The air click was exactly how it sounds, extend your hands and move your index finger, like clicking on a mouse.”
One of the key notes among those in attendance was the sharp contrast in purpose between the HoloLens and its predecessor, Google Glass.
“Google Glass tried to be hidden, good at everything and to be worn all day and it failed. HoloLens is big, designed to accomplish a certain task, and worn for a few hours,” Forbes contributor Patrick Moorhead commented in his write-up.
The two headsets are the first in what could be a long line of what are called “Augmented Reality” devices should either take off among consumers. The concept is something straight out of a sci-fi film: screens allow the user to overlay programs into their daily lives.
Say a person is redecorating their home. An AR device could allow the user not only to shop on IKEA’s website via the headset, but also render a full-size, moveable 3D display of potential furniture to allow a preview as it would look in the room. If they had questions about color or design, they could then call and Skype via the headsets with a customer service rep. They could then fire up a painting program to virtually repaint the walls of their home for a final touch.
Of course, that’s the end-game potential for AR headsets. HoloLens appears to put as much focus on using flat, moveable windows as much as holograms, similar to web-browsing but in mid-air instead of being stuck to having a device in your hands.
It also seems largely aimed at trade professionals needing specific tasks.
“If you’re an architect, you use it to work with models. If you’re a mechanic, you put it on to work with cars. You’re not going to wear it out in public,” continued Bort and Weinberger.
Moorhead seems to agree with the “business-first” assessment.
“HoloLens has a virtually unlimited set of future applications, some of which I believe actually start in business and prosumer use cases and eventually trickle down to the tech-comfortable consumer.”