The World of Holograms Approaches!

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Yesterday Microsoft announced the availability of the HoloLens Developer Kits.  The kits are available to developers who registered and were approved to get them. They will be shipped in waves with wave 1 shipping on March 30th.  These kits are going for $3000 and are only available in the US and Canada. Making a real hard decision on whether or not you should buy or not.

Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s first fully untethered holographic computer. HoloLens redefines personal computing through holographic experiences to empower you in new ways. HoloLens blends cutting-edge optics and sensors to deliver 3D holograms pinned to the real world around you. Microsoft Hardware site

Microsoft’s goal with this release is to get devices into the hands of developers in order to build up a supply of applications in the store. To that end they made the developer site available yesterday as well.  Keep in mind that this is still early on in the process so there are a lot of placeholders throughout the documentation, including the additional SDKs and HoloLens Emulator. It looks like more information will become available March 30th, which, coincidentally is the first day of Build 2016. Since all of the content is usually made available online and some even streamed live, like the keynotes, I would tune in to see what happens. 

The Hardware

Amongst the details released yesterday were the hardware specifications.  There are some pretty cool breakdown photos on the Hardware site. Here is what we know taken from the hardware site:

Optics

  • See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)
  • 2 HD 16:9 light engines
  • Automatic pupillary distance calibration
  • Holographic Resolution: 2.3M total light points
  • Holographic Density: >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

Sensors

  • 1 IMU
  • 4 environment understanding cameras
  • 1 depth camera
  • 1 2MP photo / HD video camera
  • Mixed reality capture
  • 4 microphones
  • 1 ambient light sensor

Human Understanding

  • Spatial sound
  • Gaze tracking
  • Gesture input
  • Voice support

Input / Output / Connectivity

  • Built-in speakers
  • Audio 3.5mm jack
  • Volume up/down
  • Brightness up/down
  • Power button
  • Battery status LEDs
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac
  • Micro USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Power

  • Battery Life
  • 2-3 hours of active use
  • Up to 2 weeks of standby time
  • Fully functional when charging
  • Passively cooled (no fans)

Processors

  • Intel 32 bit architecture
  • Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)

Weight

  • 1.28lbs (579g)

Memory

  • 64GB Flash
  • 2GB RAM

This is a pretty impressive set of hardware considering it is all contained in headset that weighs less than 1.5lbs. Keep in mind that this is the developer kit.  The final release hardware (believed to be a couple of years away) will be different/better

The Developer Kit

So for $3000 dollars, what do you getMSHoloLens_GroupShot_wAcc_WhtBG_V2_RGB-1024x444

  • HoloLens Development Edition
  • Clicker
  • Carrying case
  • Charger and cable
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Nose pads
  • Overhead strap

The Developer Experience

To develop for HoloLens you are going to need the following:

  • Windows 10 PC (64bit)
  • Visual Studio 2015 Update 1
  • Unity (5.4)

You will build Universal Windows Apps with Visual Studio, using Unity to build actual holograms. You can find all the details, along with guidance,  in the developer documentation. Remember this is early on in the process and not meant for production so there are some limitations in the APIs that are available.  Microsoft has said that they are currently working to close those gaps and will make additional APIs available in future updates. The goal is to have the majority of Windows 10 UWA run on HoloLens. 

My Thoughts

After a quick run through of the available documentation one thing jumped out at me, only one application can be running at a time.  Holographic applications can’t interact with each other. This seems like a limitation that they will work to reduce as most of their promotional videos show more than one app running at the same time. I hope they are able to fix this in the future.

What does all this mean? The way we interact with computers is about to change.  Will this breakthrough become the norm? Only time will tell. Microsoft is building a platform the allows developers to explore the future of computing and is changing how we think about what experiences we want our users to have.

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