Posey's Tips & Tricks

What Does the Future Hold for Microsoft HoloLens?

Microsoft looks to the automotive industry for the next chapter of its augmented reality tech.

When Microsoft introduced HoloLens several years ago, it seemed like a futuristic device straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. Now, several years later, HoloLens very future has been called into question. In fact, one of the Google search suggestions for HoloLens is "why did HoloLens fail?"

Even though HoloLens is a truly remarkable device, Microsoft earlier this year seemed to signal its demise by announcing the cancelation of the long-anticipated HoloLens 3.

There is no shortage of speculation as to why Microsoft canceled HoloLens 3. Some people cite the device's sky high price tag, while others suggest that the problem is that Microsoft failed to create a compelling use case for the device. Still others have suggested that Microsoft's priorities have changed and that the company is more interested in building the metaverse.

As it turns out though, Microsoft might not be done with HoloLens just yet. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an article

explaining that Microsoft and Volkswagen had joined forces to bring augmented reality to cars.

Although the exact details of this partnership are vague at best, it centers around a new component called Moving Platform and seems to be geared toward commercial driver training. Imagine a student driver who is operating a tractor trailer for the first time. Rather than putting the inexperienced driver on a city street, it would be far safer to allow the driver to operate the vehicle in a large, empty parking lot. HoloLens would be used to project pedestrians, cars and other objects that the driver would need to avoid.

The thing that I find most interesting about the technology isn't so much that Microsoft is getting involved in driver training, as much as the technological spinoffs that might come from this venture.

Before I talk about potential spinoffs, however, I need to take a step back and discuss Microsoft's Moving Platform. Moving Platform is essentially a software fix for the HoloLens (at least that's the way that I understand it) that addresses one of the device's most fundamental limitations.

Several years ago, I had the chance to use HoloLens in zero gravity. Prior to the mission, there was quite a bit of speculation as to whether using HoloLens in such an environment would even work. The uncertainty stemmed from the fact that HoloLens is designed to be used in a static environment (typically inside of a room). The device maps the room and holograms are anchored to physical locations within that room. None of the people that I was working with were sure if the holograms would work inside of an aircraft traveling hundreds of miles per hour, or if the holograms would simply be left behind at the airport.

As a sort of proof of concept, a friend and I tried to see if HoloLens would work in a moving car. I drove and she tried interacting with the holograms (I wasn't wearing a HoloLens). What we found was that when the car was moving, the HoloLens would continuously try to remap the environment, presumably because the scenery out the window was changing. Whenever we would stop however, HoloLens would work as expected.

From what I have been able to surmise, Microsoft's Moving Platform seems to be a fix that will allow HoloLens to be used in a moving vehicle. The implication is that this may make HoloLens practical for use in cars, airplanes, or any other moving environment.

So what about those technology spinoffs that I mentioned earlier? Well, if Microsoft has fixed HoloLens so that it can be used in a moving vehicle, and Microsoft is also working with an automotive company, then it really isn't a stretch to think that Microsoft might eventually integrate HoloLens optics into a car's heads-up display (HUD).

Imagine having GPS directions projected over the real world or having a vehicle's HUD highlight pedestrians that the driver might not have seen. There are countless use cases for HoloLens enabled vehicle HUD.

In all fairness, I haven't heard anyone talk about integrating HoloLens into a vehicle. Even so, the technology exists that would make it possible to do so. Besides, Microsoft has shown an interest in automotive platforms in the past, going all the way back to the Clarion Auto PC. Never mind the way that Microsoft partnered with Ford several years back to create the Sync platform that was integrated into many of Ford's cars. HoloLens just seems like a natural next step.

 

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 21-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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