Everyday holograms are one step closer to reality, with Microsoft unveiling its vision for the future of Windows. Among a myriad of other features, Windows 10 will include the new HoloLens headset, technology designed to overlay holographic images in the real world. With the hardware being refined as we speak and a range of holographic applications also in the pipeline, Microsoft’s virtual reality glasses promise unparalleled interaction between the physical and digital worlds.
The HoloLens project was announced during Microsoft's much-anticipated Windows 10 event, with the technology to be released in the Windows 10 time frame. The device itself looks like a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, allowing users to see holograms in front of them while also taking part in the real world. With gestures and voice commands also a big part of the project, this device could change how we interact with computers on a daily basis.
The HoloLens glasses will work in tandem with specially developed software, with a HoloStudio tool also available so users can print the 3D objects they've created in holograms. According to Microsoft in a blog post, "With Windows 10, holograms are Windows universal apps… making it possible to place three-dimensional holograms in the world around you to communicate, create and explore in a manner that is far more personal and human."
To create HoloLens’ images, light particles bounce around millions of times in the so-called light engine of the device. When photons enter the two lenses of the virtual glasses, they ricochet between layers of blue, green and red glass before they reach the back of your eye. According to chief inventor Alex Kipman, this process parallels how we see in the real world, with the only difference between virtual and physical objects being a lack of mass.
“Ultimately, you know, you perceive the world because of light... 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.” said Kipman, who is also the man behind the ground breaking motion-sensing Xbox accessory Kinect.
Both of Kipman's inventions are "about the analog universe,” he says, which has “a fundamentally different rule set” than the digital universe which has so far constrained computing devices. If touchscreen tablet devices and motion-sensing gaming peripherals have defined the last few years of digital evolution, the next era of computing looks even more focussed on notions of interface and connection.
Microsoft want to get Project HoloLens into the hands of developers in a matter of months. Because Holographic applications are designed to be standard Windows 10 universal apps, developers will be able to release them across a wide range of devices. While no-one knows when the Windows 10 HoloLens technology will be available to consumers or how much it will cost, all of a sudden, the holograms of science fiction seem much closer to reality.