Redmond is aiming to create a new ecosystem of virtual/augmented reality developers, starting early next year. Microsoft finally showed off its Windows 10-powered HoloLens prototype, which will be released as a developer kit for $3,000 and shipped during the first quarter of next year.
The initial concept of HoloLens was reveled in January, with precious few details emerging since. A video offering details on the product was released on Microsoft’s Web site yesterday.
The augmented reality HoloLens lets users immerse themselves in interactive environments, working with virtual objects and using hand gestures not just to play games, but create designs and enhance the manufacturing process.
The prototype is somewhat different from other upcoming VR (virtual reality) products from Google, Apple and Facebook in that it overlays and interacts with real life, giving it the potential to enhance real-life scenarios in the workplace.
"Whether it's for productivity, health care, design, or entertainment, HoloLens creates experiences that aren't possible on any other device, or any other platform," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices group, in a statement.
We reached out to Jeremy Joachim, an analyst at Greenlight VR, who told us that although the price tag of the developer kit might turn away hobbyists and even some professional developers, industries involving data analytics and data visualizations will see lots of potential in HoloLens.
"One of AR's (augmented reality) biggest advantages over other computing platforms lies in its ability to surpass gaming applications," said Joachim. "I think it opens up the market for some professional developers and SMBs in industries like architecture, engineering, and health care, where the expense of integrated hardware, software, and professional development services has historically been cost-prohibitive."
Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner Inc., agreed that the recent demos of HoloLens indicate that its greatest strengths will be found outside the gaming world.
"Business operates with real things," Blau told us. "They want tools that can let them merge real and virtual worlds as a way of improving skills and reducing errors. The business and manufacturing realm is where HoloLens will have its appeal."
Microsoft said that a connection to a PC or smartphone won’t be required for HoloLens to work. The initial developer edition of the HoloLens will come with headgear that acts as a battery-operated Windows computer that generates 3D computer-graphics objects that seem to exist in the real world.
Only developers living in the United States or Canada who participate in the Microsoft Insider feedback program will be able to buy the product. Microsoft didn’t say how many HoloLens headsets it plans to offer, nor did it disclose the developer qualifications necessary to get one. There will be a limit of two devices per applicant, but commercial customers that want more devices will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
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