Microsoft HoloLens: Development & Enthusiasm – From A Gaming Helmet Six Months Ago To One That Serves Work, Play & Entertainment


Posted on January 22, 2015 by Alan Walsh

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At the Windows 10 Media Briefing yesterday, which was held on the companies campus, Microsoft shared ‘Microsoft HoloLens‘ to the world. You may recall me talking about ‘Project B’ in a detailed article back at the start of the year, well Project B is indeed HoloLens. Project B (which changed to Project HoloLens before finally Microsoft HoloLens) was the code-name for HoloLens, which I believed was going to be focused on gaming and virtual reality. However, Microsoft have chosen a more realistic approach to the technology which is Holograms. The software technology used in HoloLens is known as ‘Windows Holographic’ which blends your world with the Holographic 3D rendered world. This isn’t virtual reality because with VR, you don’t see any of the real world, you’re completely transported to a new world. However, with HoloLens, these objects and worlds are placed in your world, the real world as high-definition holographic 3D renders. I believe Microsoft have chosen the best approach, VR isn’t the future due to issues with huge helmets you can’t see through which can cause you to get nauseous. HoloLens allows you to see through the lens, meaning you’re not separated from the real world. Microsoft showed this image a few times during their briefing yesterday. Note the Xbox One and Kinect in the background and most important, the Ryse: Son Of Rome battle-scene below. Here was the gaming-focused HoloLens which I believe will still be a huge role of the product. It’s also worth noting the use of the Surface tablet to interact with the experience and how the Xbox One is displaying the room with all the holograms which is captured via Kinect. I believe Xbox One and Kinect still will be fundamental in the experience, just like Skype, Office and HoloStudio.

When I wrote about Project B earlier this month, I believed it was going to be a gaming-focused helmet that utilizes the Xbox One and Kinect. However, Microsoft have actually taken a more work and play approach. Nevertheless, the original concept was actually a gaming-helmet. Project B started development about 5 years ago with the idea of being the gaming helmet/glasses accessory to launch during the life-cycle of Microsoft’s upcoming home entertainment system (Xbox One) and the idea of placing holographic/virtual images that interact with your game, taking characters outside of your screen is seemed to be what they were aiming for. It’s most likely they aimed for full Virtual Reality at first until the discovered they holographic computing was actually the future. The shift of going from a gaming helmet to something that also incorporates work, design, craft, Skype, computing, entertainment and more happened approximately six months ago when Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella told the team working on the project that there’s so much more they can do with this than just gaming. He inspired them to look at all the possibilities they could achieve with this and so they expanded until they got the perfect Holographic computer for gaming, work and entertainment. Wired posted a feature yesterday about Satya Nadella and pushing innovation with Project HoloLens and Microsoft services and it’s one worth checking out.

I also mentioned in my Project B article that Kudo Tsunoda was most likely leading the project and indeed, Kudo is playing a huge role in HoloLens. Kudo was previously Creative Director of Kinect, however we never heard of his work for a few years and that was because Kudo was focused on HoloLens. Yesterday, Kudo tweeted finally after 293 weeks that he was indeed working on HoloLens, just like I predicted. His Twitter Bio was also updated to mention his work on creating new experiences for Windows and Xbox. Alex Kipman, the one who presented the product during the media briefing also played a huge role in Kinect like Kudo did. Kipman quoted that Kinect was like an early version of HoloLens and that HoloLens is like an evolved Kinect. Laura Massey who does Major Nelson Radio, the popular Xbox podcast by Microsoft’s Larry Hryb also played a huge role in HoloLens. Massey previously worked on experiences such as Xbox Live Parties before moving onto HoloLens.

Microsoft acquired Minecraft developer, Mojang, last September for $2.5 Billion. Minecraft is one of the most popular games ever made and as Myerson said, the only place to play Minecraft in a holographic VR setting is with HoloLens. Part of the reason that Microsoft may have acquired Mojang was possibly to build this Minecraft Holographic experience. Minecraft is a game with endless possibilities and as someone who has followed Microsoft for years and watched their every move, I believe Microsoft HoloLens also has unlimited possibilities.

When Microsoft first unveiled HoloLens yesterday, I was mind-blown by how far the technology has come. I didn’t expect to see an actual live demo and the 3D printing of rendered virtual objects is something that isn’t just a novelty but something that is indeed revolutionary to productivity in a mobile first, cloud first world. I can see the vision Nadella is aiming for. HoloLens, a Windows Holographic helmet fuelled by Windows 10 and Microsoft’s Cloud services like Xbox, Skype, OneDrive and Office 365. Although I wasn’t there in person to try out holographic computing myself, I’m personally very excited and I can’t wait to try out HoloLens whenever I’m given the opportunity. I’ve been a Microsoft consumer my entire life and only recently started writing about them and I’ve never been more excited about the company than I time today. With Nadella in charge, Phil leading Xbox, Kipman heading up HoloLens and Myerson and Belfiore building the Windows that I won’t just use, but love, I could never have picked a better time to write about Microsoft. And this folks, is why Microsoft is my favourite company. The enthusiasm they have for fans and the enthusiasm we the fans share with them.

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