Why would anyone ever need HoloLens, Microsoft’s new augmented reality headset? If you can think of a reason, the company is willing to offer you $100,000 to explain it, according to a request for proposal issued Tuesday. In fact, Redmond will award five such grants to research teams willing to develop applications for the new platform.
Announced earlier this year as part of the company’s rollout of its Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft described the device as an “untethered see-through holographic computer.” It consists of a headset that projects holographic images over real-world objects. In addition to projecting images, the HoloLens can also accept commands using hand gestures, voice commands, and eye movements, allowing users to manipulate holographic objects directly.
Looking for New Applications
Microsoft said the platform is built on the same core as Windows 10 and will be compatible with Windows 10 applications. Although the HoloLens naturally lends itself to gaming applications, Microsoft is pushing the potential commercial uses of the interface as well. The company said the device “will help make incredible leaps forward for productivity, collaboration, and innovation.”
The RFP noted several areas that Microsoft is looking at for potential HoloLens applications, including data visualization, education, and communication and collaboration. Medical students could use the device to interact with 3D models, while enterprises could use it to make virtual conferences more effective. The proposal also mentioned possible applications for remote training and support.
The company suggested that the HoloLens could also have less obvious applications in fields such as narrative storytelling and interactive journalism, along with possibilities for psychological research into human perception and human-computer interactions.
“We expect that researchers will envision novel ways of using HoloLens -- from interactively teaching students, to creating mixed-realty art installations, to manipulating holographic data to reveal new relationships . . . to who knows what,” Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, said in a blog post.
Replacing the TV Screen
Some companies have already gotten their hands on the HoloLens development kit. Design and construction firm Trimble is using the technology to interact with 3D building models. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, meanwhile, plans on using the platform to allow researchers to explore virtual walkthroughs of the Martian surface via images transmitted by the Mars Rover.
Microsoft said the technology has the potential to make holograms a central aspect of daily life at work and at home, and as ubiquitous as TV monitors or cell phones are now.
The company said the awards are intended to be used for seed-funding larger initiatives, proofs of concept, or demonstrations of feasibility. The company added that the funding is not expected to continue after the first year. Additionally, research teams granted the awards should look to raise additional funding as part of longer-term projects. Research teams must be affiliated with either accredited degree-granting universities or non-profit research institutions. Proposals are due September 5.