Microsoft’s quiet revolution
Virtual reality has been all the rage lately. Since the birth of the Oculus Rift, many of the biggest technology and gaming companies, such as Facebook, HTC and Valve, have made huge investments in order to keep up with this new technology and reap all of the benefits it brings.
But there is one big player that is keeping out of the spotlight: Microsoft. And it isn’t because they wouldn’t have anything to get out of this.
They are one of the leading video game console developers in the world, thanks to the success of Xbox, have also been investing on the distribution of computer games, with the Xbox Game Pass, as well as their own games, with the Halo and Age of Empires franchises, and have already delved into innovative gaming technology, with the Kinect. So, why aren’t they heavily investing in VR?
Because they have their very own product: mixed reality.
Mixed reality is the name given to technologies that mix virtual reality with real reality in any proportion. Augmented reality is a type of mixed reality, where there is more real reality than the virtual one. But mixed reality itself is much more broad and open, and its possibilities are endless.
Let’s talk a bit about how Microsoft is handling it.
Also known by its codename Project Baraboo, the Microsoft HoloLens is Microsoft’s take on mixed reality glasses. Yes, glasses. And mixed reality. You know how in sci-fi movies there are those fancy helmets with interactive HUDs, targeting systems and some incredible eye candy? Yeah, the HoloLens can do that. And more.
The “Holo” in “HoloLens” comes from the word “hologram”, and holograms are the selling point of the technology, at least for Microsoft. They aren’t hologram in the sense popularized by science-fiction, of moving images projected onto the air in three dimensions, like you can see in Star Wars, but animated and interactive 3D models which can be displayed in the HoloLens’s screens. Which, let’s be honest, is the next best thing.
Windows Mixed Reality
Windows Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s version of Windows 10 for mixed and virtual reality headsets, following Microsoft’s policy of adapting Windows 10 to the many different kinds of digital platforms we have today, such as phones and tablets, along with its PC version.
The system works by creating an interface adapted for the headset, such as by creating hologram versions of the interface which the user interact with using their hands, when using the HoloLens, or creating a entire virtual world along with the interface, which can then be interacted with using controllers, in the case of VR headsets.
The HoloLens already comes with a built-in version of Windows 10 for autonomous use, but connecting to a computer allows it to take advantage of PC hardware and run software designed for it, such as VR games.
The Windows Mixed Reality also shows what are Microsoft’s intentions with the HoloLens: to complement, not to compete with, VR. They are different technologies with different purposes, and Microsoft is bound to reap the benefits of both. Read more articles: Cybersecurity
What to expect
With the release of the HoloLens 2, Microsoft is now aiming at the business market. And it makes sense: the equipment costs 3500 dollars. The HoloLens can easily replace other informational equipment such as laptops and tablets, especially if they already used augmented reality, by making information checking and inspection of real life equipment something much more intuitive and quick. So for something with such a cost, businesses would probably be the ones who would get the most benefit.
Just the same, the HoloLens 2 can also be bought with a development license to enable developers to integrate it into the necessary systems and develop applications, although you need a separate monthly subscription.
That doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t willing to insert the HoloLens into the consumer market in the future, but they know that right now it won’t find much space, as it is very expensive and the consumers are already more focused on virtual reality, which also has a lot more software adapted and designed to it.
Still, developments into the HoloLens and similar hardware are going to lead us closer and closer into the sci-fi world we’ve always wanted.