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Nadella Sees Pokémon Go as a Catalyst for HoloLens

The release of Pokémon Go last week has gone viral at an opportune time for Microsoft. The new mobile game for smartphones, which is suddenly introducing augmented reality to the masses, arrived a few days before Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference kicked off where the company is showcasing its HoloLens headsets. Microsoft released a developer edition consisting of the headset and software at the Build developer conference in late March and now the company is looking to spread interest in augmented reality based on Windows among its 20,000 partners gathered this week.

Pokemon Go revives the once popular Nintendo characters licensed to the Pokemon Co. and Niantic for Apple's iOS and Android. The free app, which utilizes a smartphone's camera and GPS function, presents the game in an augmented reality type scenario for which HoloLens was devised. As of yesterday, 2 million downloads of the app are generating $1.6 million per day in in-app purchases including an upgrade to a premium version of the app, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

"This Pokemon interest hopefully will translate into a lot of interest in HoloLens," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told CNBC's Jon Forte moments after the opening keynote session at WPC, taking place this week in Tornonto. "Think about it, the game physics of that app are built for HoloLens. Of course the phone is great, the installed base of the phone is so enormous that it makes it possible. But think about what that game on HoloLens would mean. You're not trying to use a phone when you can actually use your eyes to look through. It's the ultimate computing paradigm and I am happy for Pokemon but I am happy for these industrial applications."

Nadella emphasized HoloLens in the opening keynote session where he was joined by Microsoft Program Director Arantxa Lasa Cid, who demonstrated how Japan Airlines is using it to train engine mechanics how to diagnose and repair its jet engines.

Asked if Microsoft wouldn't be better off targeting its HoloLens technology with a gaming app like Pokemon Go, rather than focusing on industrial use first, Nadella responded that the new game is ideal for helping everyone understand the opportunity of augmented reality. "I think it's fantastic to see augmented reality applications getting built," he said. "The best thing that can happen when you're creating a new category is for applications that are these killer apps, whether it be gaming or in the industrial scenario, to get invested in."

Given the fact that the HoloLens Developer Kits cost $3,000 each, if Pokemon Go has staying power and isn't just a fad, don't expect it to come to HoloLens right away.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/12/2016 at 12:14 PM


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