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Holograms. They have been the dream for the past few decades, popularized by science-fiction but never really achieved in real life. Till now, we have been trying to create Holograms in the real world, but now, players as Microsoft and Magic Leap are changing the game. They are merging the virtual and the real, and are overlaying holograms over the real-world with the help of headsets.
And Microsoft seems far-ahead, when comparing early reviews of Microsoft’s HoloLens with the patents of Magic Leap. HoloLens is Microsoft’s single-most exciting product in years, and is perhaps even the most innovative one of this decade.
If Microsoft does this right, then HoloLens can completely revolutionize computing. And according to early hands-on impressions, Microsoft is getting a lot of things right.
Now we are obviously curious about exactly what makes the HoloLens tick, and finally, Microsoft has revealed some details about the headset that promises to change the way we work and play.
Firstly, lets talk about the design. It is a headset that is designed to wrap around your head in a way that distributes weight evenly, so you don’t feel uncomfortable. The best part is that the whole setup is completely wireless, meaning that you won’t be getting tangled up, which is simply one step ahead of Virtual Reality devices like the Oculus Rift. Granted, both are different kinds of devices, but there’s no doubt that wireless is the future. Do you really envision yourselves walking around, with your range being limited by a cord?
Now most of us thought that the display would project holograms that were somewhat transparent, but all reviewers say that the overlays feel like they are a part of the real world. And to clear some facts up, the HoloLens projects directly into your eye, not onto your surroundings.
Making things look real is just one part of the equation. The other part is to make them behave realistically, and it seems Microsoft has achieved that. What HoloLens does is that it pulls data from lots of sensors including accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers along with head-tracking cameras that gives the HoloLens an accurate representation of your surroundings, and your position in it. Every little change in your surroundings is tracked, and your every moment is tracked too.
Now imagine all this data, from so many sensors, being continually recorded, and it would take a ton of processing power to process through that data. The HoloLens perhaps has an Atom-class processor, which is among the only processors suitable for such a device, but this processor isn’t capable of high-speed calculations. Worse, this processing needs to happen in real-time, else the viewer may experience glitches.
That’s why Microsoft developed a Holographic Processing Unit that is built for this kind of data processing. All it does is process the data from all of these sensors and cameras, and then adapt the holograms accordingly.
For example, as one reviewer noted, when a ball is overlayed onto the real world, and it is dropped, then the ball actually adapts to the room layout. This means that if you have, lets say a small notebook on top of a table, the HoloLens will recognize that, calculate that, and will simulate a real-ball hitting the notebook on top of the table, making it all very realistic.
As for those worrying about processing constraints, even at such an early stage, no reviewers have reported any frame-drops or glitches, which is simply commendable.
Controls are still a bit rudimentary, since no perfect control-mechanism has been found for such a platform. The HoloLens features gesture-control through waves and taps, and while it does work, it can be better. No, we don’t mean the functioning of these gestures. That already is pretty impeccable. We mean the evolution of a new control mechanism that is suited for interacting with a holographic world.
Coming to the Software, the HoloLens will depend on Windows 10‘s Universal Apps Platform and for voice-recognition, Cortana is present. Developers would be a bit restricted, in order to create a uniform experience, but not so much as to actually stifle innovation.
That’s all we know about HoloLens, and we expect more such details to be announced soon. On a sidenote, since the early prototypes are functioning so well, we think that expectations of a release date this year won’t be unfounded.
What do you think? Will the HoloLens be successful? Are you ready for holographic computing?