Microsoft HoloLens Meshes Your Real and Digital Worlds

Microsoft made R2D2’s holographic capabilities seem quaint today when it unveiled the HoloLens, which will work with the upcoming Windows 10 operating system. The holographic wearable will let you view Skype chats, stream Netflix and manipulate 3D images, among other things.

HoloLens which will come out around Windows 10 timeframe

What sets the HoloLens apart from VR headsets is that it doesn’t require cables, phones, or even another computer. The HoloLens has a built-in processor and GPU, as well as a third processor that Microsoft calls a holographic processing unit. Because it has all this hardware inside, the HoloLens is capable of operating without a connection, even wirelessly, to a PC. Microsoft calls it a holographic computer.

hololens live demo
This is the live demo of HoloStudio. The tools and materials are all only visible through the HoloLens.

The lenses are clear, so you can see the world around you. You can walk around a room, for example, and see it the same way you would without the HoloLens – except that it puts digital images in your field of vision. Microsoft showed a HoloLens user who sat down on a couch, looked at a wall that didn’t have a TV, and opened a holographic screen that appeared to be sitting on the wall, so he could watch TV. Pretty cool, no? Other examples included a videogame that spilled off a coffee table and into the rest of a living room, as well as researchers exploring a holographic version of Mars, based on images from the Mars Rover.

hololens in action

One particularly cool aspect of the HoloLens is a feature Microsoft calls “spatial sound.” The headset has speakers built in so that you can hear holograms – including holograms that are behind you. That ought to really cement the sense that the holographic images around you are real.


Obviously, the possibilities for software that takes advantage of the HoloLens are pretty exciting. Microsoft has already created HoloStudio, which lets the user create holograms by “handling” holographic images that appear in the HoloLens. In a live demo, a user created a working quadrocopter and printed it with a 3D printer.


The thing is, the HoloLens faces the same issue VR headsets face: you have to wear a headset. As slick as the HoloLens is, it remains to be see whether people are willing to spend a lot of time with the HoloLens on. The HoloLens is expected to be out around the same time that Windows 10 launches.