Microsoft opens up HoloLens platform to rivals, developers – USA TODAY
USA TODAY’s Marco Della Cava demonstrates how Microsoft’s augmented reality headset shows how one day we may only interact with digital content in holographic form.
Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO â Augmented reality technology took one step closer to the mainstream Wednesday whenÂ Microsoft said it would open its Windows-based holographic platformÂ to developers and rival device manufacturers.
“We built our HoloLens (headset) to push the limits of mixed reality,” Terry Myerson, who runs Microsoft’sÂ Windows and Devices Group,Â told USA TODAY in an interview a few hours before unveiling the news at theÂ Computex technology trade show in Taipei. “Now we’re looking to unlock opportunities for the ecosystem.”
Virtual reality devices drop users into animated worlds while blocking out reality, whereasÂ mixed âÂ or augmented âÂ reality tech overlays hologram-based images over the real world.
Microsoft listed a number of major companies that would begin factoring Windows Holographic into their plans, includingÂ HTC, Intel, Qualcomm, Acer, Dell, Hewlett-PackardÂ and Lenovo.
By using Windows Holographic, the platform that powers HoloLens, content developers and hardware manufacturers willÂ be able to create experiences that can be shared across devices, whether they are simple smartphone-based systems such as Google Cardboard or expensive PC-tethered headsets such as Oculus Rift.
Microsoft HoloLens is an all-in-one headset thatÂ stands apart from computer-tethered VR goggles fromÂ HTC and Oculus in that all of its technology is housed inside the wearable device, allowing users to walk around freely.Â The $3,000 device began shipping to developers this spring.
A few other companies are hard at work in the same AR goggleÂ space, including Meta, Epson and ODG. In the near term, AR is seen as most useful in the enterprise space, allowing workers to collaborate together on hologram-rendered projects.
Microsoft CEO SatyaÂ Nadella is among those who believe that ARÂ will represent the next generation of computing, ultimately eliminating the need for computer monitors and smartphones.
Currently, most virtual and augmented reality devicesÂ offer consumers experiences through different interfaces and peripherals. But theÂ future of VR and AR is expected to be anchored to social interactions, which willÂ requireÂ consumer gearÂ to speak the same tech language.
.Google recently made a similar gesture to help further popularize virtual reality, announcingÂ at its recent developers conference a new platform called Google Daydream. But that initiative will be limited to improving the quality of Android smartphone VR experiences.
While HoloLens is among devices that is setting the standard for AR â which by 2020 should represent 75% of a projected $120 billion market, according to industry advisors Digi-Capital â augmented reality tech remains an expensive option for consumers.
By offering software and hardware developers access to Windows Holographic, some of those AR experiences can begin appearing on less expensive devices.
But the move also reflectsÂ how Nadella is hoping to make Windows the world’s dominant operating system in a device-agnostic world.
Although the company lost ground withÂ less than stellar Windows 8, 2015’s Windows 10 is now running on 300 million active devices thanks in part to a free one-year upgrade program that ends July 29. Last year, Microsoft uncharacteristically appeared at an Apple company event in order to showcase how iPad Pro users could leverage Windows on the enterprise-focused tablet.
Nadella is two years into a major makeover of the storied Redmond, Wash., that has seen him scrap an ill-advised investment in Nokia’s handset business and focus instead on building out the company’s cloud-based enterprise subscription services as well as push into artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
A video released by MicrosoftÂ Wednesday attemptsÂ to sketch out a vision ofÂ this future. It showsÂ three colleagues creating a store interior while working in different places and using diverse devices all while sharing the same vision of the room. Their finished project isÂ then presented to the client, who viewsÂ the result in AR.
Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della CavaÂ on Twitter:Â @marcodellacava