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Microsoft's HoloLens Doesn't Look Like a Google Glass Wannabe

One of the unexpected surprises at yesterday's Windows 10 prelaunch event and webcast was when Microsoft donned slick looking eyewear designed to bring holography to the mainstream. Whether Google got word of it days earlier when it pulled its own failed Google Glass experiment off the market is unknown. But the irony of the timing notwithstanding, Microsoft's new HoloLens appears to have more potential.

Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman, who works in Microsoft's operating systems group and is known as the "father of Kinect," made the surprise introduction of HoloLens at the Windows 10 event. While he didn't say when it would come out or how much it will cost, he positioned it as a product that's designed around Windows 10 and the suggestion is we'll see it sometime later this year.

"Holographic computing enabled by Windows 10 is here," said Kipman. "Every Windows 10 device has APIs focused on humans and environment understanding. Holographic APIs are enabled inside every Windows 10 build from the little screens to the big screens to no screens at all." It has a built-in CPU and GPU, but doesn't require external markers, cameras, wires or a computer connection, he added, and it will blend the physical and digital worlds.

When wearing HoloLens, it is designed to combine an existing environment with holograms, giving a 3D-like visual experience. While it surely will enhance Microsoft's gaming and entertainment portfolio including Xbox and Minecraft, the company also underscored practical uses for HoloLens. In a video, the company described how HoloLens can let workers share ideas, collaborate, teach and learn in a more visually immersive way.

Unlike Google Glass, HoloLens appears to have more practical use cases and may actually offer broader appeal. How broad will depend on price and how useful it ultimately is. But Microsoft has the advantage of seeing where Google Glass fell short and potentially has a larger ecosystem behind it. Perhaps it's even the catalyst that can bring developers of modern apps for other platforms into the fold?

Either way, Google hasn't thrown in the towel in this segment and it could prove to be a burgeoning market alongside other wearable gadgets. Kipman said Microsoft has worked on HoloLens in its research labs for many years, suggesting the demo wasn't just vaporware. It's yet another way Microsoft could draw demand for Windows 10 if users find HoloLens appealing. That could be the case if the price is right and it works as advertised.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/22/2015 at 12:28 PM


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