Microsoft has unveiled a ‘holographic video’ project it says it has been working on for years, in secret, that could revolutionise design and manufacturing.
Dubbed HoloLens, the platform is built around a headset that combines mobile computing technology with a lens-based display that overlays virtual images on the real world beyond.
As a concept, HoloLens is reminiscent of Google’s Glass program, which offers a similar experience by allowing users to interact with a small display worn above the right eye.
But while Glass is a streamlined headpiece intended for all-day use, Microsoft has foregone minimalism in favour of a larger unit that offers more processing power and, potentially, more applications in the home and workplace.
Previewed in two new videos this week (see bottom of article), HoloLens is promoted both as a lifestyle companion for the home, and as a tool for industrial design.
HoloLens is an immersive experience on the same level as the Occulus Rift system. Both are designed as a large and powerful headset, and both represent massive potential for pushing the boundaries of human-computer interaction.
For automotive designers, HoloLens could be a major boon.
Rather than building physical models - some by hand, some with multi-axis crafting machines - designers could skip directly to quickly developing a series of virtual models to be viewed with HoloLens.
The design team could then invite HoloLens-wearing colleagues and managers to quite literally walk around the virtual concepts, offering a clear view of the designer’s ideas and helping management to decide on the next step.
This in turn could lead to faster turnarounds on new products, but more importantly, a level of creativity and risk-taking with automotive design that has previously been prohibitively expensive.
For now, though, HoloLens is a concept.
The video clips released today are merely a preview of Microsoft’s goals for the system, but a demonstration given to tech journalists in the US this week suggests that in reality, there is still much to be done before HoloLens hits store shelves.