At its Windows 10 event in Redmond today, Microsoft announced a new component of Windows 10: Windows Holographic, a version of its OS built for an augmented reality headset called the HoloLens. Unlike a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift, which create images on an LCD display and entirely immerse you in a virtual environment, Microsoft's HoloLens uses transparent lenses to project images into the world around you.
Microsoft used a sizzle reel for Windows Holographic to show off potential uses: building Minecraft-style voxel constructions on your living room coffee table, simulating the Martian landscape, or doing industrial design in three dimensions. Then Microsoft brought out a HoloLens headset to demo it live with a new program called HoloStudio.
HoloStudio is a bit like a 'My First 3D Modeling Program.' Microsoft demoed the headset by putting together some basic geometric shapes to assemble a simple-looking quadrocopter. The payoff of HoloStudio is that it can output files to a 3D printer to be built in the real world.
The HoloStudio demo notably didn't show an interaction between 'holograms' and the real world. It's one thing to be able to project those images for the viewer wearing the headset—it'll be far more difficult to integrate those projections into real tasks in a meaningful way, like adding 3D modeling data to the motorcycle in the sizzle video.
The HoloLens itself is an impressive-looking headset. It's fully wireless, and Microsoft says it has a powerful built-in CPU and GPU, with a third "holographic processing unit" designed to handle reading data about the world around you. The holographic processor "gives us the ability to understand where you're looking, your gestures, your voice," Microsoft said. "To spatially map the entire world around us. And to run without any wires all while processing terabytes of information from all of these sensors in real time."
We'll be getting a hands-on (and eyes-in) demo of the HoloLens, so stay tuned for impressions, and our thoughts about how it could fit into PC gaming.