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Microsoft's Hololens

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Jason Z

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In general, I have always been interested in computer graphics. There is lots of different problems to solve, and if you like math/geometry then there really aren't many better ways to exercise your brain than working in this area. Once you know how to take geometry and project it onto an image, it can also be quite satisfying to do the opposite - start to investigate computer vision and understand how to take an image, and convert it back into a set of objects. A while back, I integrated Kinect support into Hieroglyph 3 for just such a reason - you can do some really interesting stuff with a color and a depth map of a scene, and even cooler stuff if you take that image sequence over time.

A natural extension of generating images for a monitor is to generate them for something like the Oculus Rift. This is actually not much different than regular computer graphics, except that you get the position and orientation of your camera from the Head Mounted Display (HMD), and then render the scene twice for two eyes. I also explored this by adding Oculus Rift support into Hieroglyph 3. It is really cool to play around with the technology and see how it works. Everyone talks about 'presence' with VR, and it really is a bit spooky how much you can get tricked into feeling like you are there instead of here.

However, in the end VR stuff basically takes you from a 2D monitor window into a virtual world, and wraps that virtual world all around you. The problem is, there is no in between - you can't see anything of the real world when you have the HMD on. This presents all kinds of problems, including the question about how do you interact with a virtual world if you can't see your own hands! There are lots of extremely smart people working on this very problem, many of them at Oculus I'm sure. But there is a solution to this problem already coming down the road, that might just change the very nature of how we approach interfacing to the devices all around us: The Hololens.

Hololens.png

If you think about it, the Hololens combines both computer graphics and computer vision. You get to put computer generated objects into the real world using computer vision. Of course, we don't know yet how much access we will get to the underlying technology (although that answer is apparently at least partially coming at Build according to a few interviews) but it is really cool to think you can interact with the basic structure of the world around you - at the same time you are wearing the HMD.

That totally solves the challenge of how to interact with the world around you with the HMD on. I don't know how well it is implemented, or how low the latency is on the headset, but if it works as everyone seems to be reporting, then I can't wait to get my hands on one of the development kits for the Hololens. Consider the example Minecraft demo that Microsoft showed off:

Hololens-Minecraft.jpg

Think of all the cool things you could do with access to the room's basic structure, and selecting overwriting of its contents. Have you ever played Portal? The opportunities are limitless...

What do you guys think - what will you do with this technology!?!?!
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I could see major, absolutely major uses for this tech in construction. virtual tape measures, levels that can tell you if everything is aligned properly(hell it might even be able to tell you the actual angle something is relative to other objects), being able to view a visual of the floor plan overlaying the real stuff. I think this tech has absolutely limitless possibility's, and can open up a whole new gateway of productivity.

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I'm more eager to get my hands on a hololens than on a oculus rift due to this

 

you can't see anything of the real world when you have the HMD on

To be honest, I could imagine the hololens as additional montior, as loose working place, much like a blue-tooth headset. When it comes to gaming I must think about a tabletop, playing a tabletop with a friend on your livingroom table without the need to paint all these miniatures.

A horror game in your house...

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While the novelty uses sure look fun, I think this might finally solve the problem of having to move large screens about. If I understand this tech correctly, by wearing these you can have an enormous monitor floating in front of you, or on the nearest wall, and you only have to carry the glasses around.

 

The novelty stuff tends to make a big noise then die off (Wii, Kinnect etc) but if this tech can solve an actual problem, perhaps it will become part of the new standard way we interact.

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That is part of what is piquing my interest - having the ability to have unlimited size screens all around you, but still be able to see the telephone when it rings so you can pick it up.  I think there will be lots of mixed uses like they showed in the promo videos - you are designing on a 2D interface with a monitor, and then a 3D view is opened on the desk next to you.

 

@Ashaman: it could be especially freaky to have a horror game in your house, enough so that it almost seems like something to avoid :)

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@Aardvajk: The Wii was a novelty that died off? I must not have noticed over the sound of 100 million units sold...

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Speaking of Wii, Nintendo should have pursued that head-tracking technology that was developed by one university student to have VR displays using the WiiMote. It would have worked with any TV and make 3D gaming more immersive.

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Speaking of Wii, Nintendo should have pursued that head-tracking technology that was developed by one university student to have VR displays using the WiiMote. It would have worked with any TV and make 3D gaming more immersive.

 

Yeah, I thought that's what the 3DS's '3D' feature was. Nope, they made something crummy that gives most people headaches and irritates my eyes.

 

Thankfully, they DID implement headtracking in the 'New 3DS', and supposedly it's really good.

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