Microsoft Unveils Windows Holographic and HoloLens Augmented Reality Goggles
At the Windows 10 event today, Microsoft announced their newest project: augmented reality goggles called Hololens. Creator Robert Kipman calls the goggles, which overlay holograms onto the user's surroundings, "the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen."
The goggles are able to overlay holograms onto the surrounding environment by tricking the brain into "hallucinating" the desired vision. Light particles bounce between the differently colored layers of glass in the goggles, which creates an optical illusion and induces the brain to see the light as matter. The headset does not require connection to a computer or phone, but rather operates independently with its own "light engine."
"Ultimately, you know, you perceive the world because of light," Kipman explained to Wired. "If I could magically turn the debugger on, we'd see photons bouncing throughout this world. Eventually they hit the back of your eyes, and through that, you reason about what the world is. You essentially hallucinate the world, or you see what your mind wants you to see."
Where other companies, such as Sony and Oculus, are dabbling in virtual reality, Microsoft has eschewed that concept for augmented reality. Virtual reality encloses the user in an entirely virtual environment, and so is most useful for adventure games or simulations, while augmented reality uses holograms to alter the appearance of the user's physical environment, which could potentially have more practical applications. For example, when Wired's Jessi Hempel had the opportunity to test the technology, she was able to get a virtual tutorial from an electrician on installing an electrical switch:
"After I put on the headset, an electrician pops up on a screen that floats directly in front of me. With a quick hand gesture I'm able to anchor the screen just to the left of the wires. The electrician is able to see exactly what I'm seeing. He draws a holographic circle around the voltage tester on the sideboard and instructs me to use it to check whether the wires are live. Once we establish that they aren't, he walks me through the process of installing the switch, coaching me by sketching holographic arrows and diagrams on the wall in front of me. Five minutes later, I flip a switch, and the living room light turns on."
Hempel was also able to explore an extremely realistic simulated Mars-scape, which Kipman developed with the help of NASA rocket scientist Jeff Norris: "With a quick upward gesture, I toggle from computer screens that monitor the Curiosity rover's progress across the planet's surface to the virtual experience of being on the planet. The ground is a parched, dusty sandstone, and so realistic that as I take a step, my legs begin to quiver. They don't trust what my eyes are showing them. Behind me, the rover towers seven feet tall, its metal arm reaching out from its body like a tentacle. The sun shines brightly over the rover, creating short black shadows on the ground beneath its legs."
The goggles will likely not be glitch-free for quite a while, especially considering the relative primitiveness of voice control technology. But Microsoft is confident enough to unveil the technology to the public, and claims that it will be priced "for both enterprise and consumers to use it."