Microsoft’s HoloLens seems like something out of a sci-fi movie—maybe Minority Report, or the remake of RoboCop. You slip the black plastic headset over your eyes, and the lenses overlay holographic images onto your surroundings: You can play Minecraft in your living room, for instance, or display a 3-D mockup of a vehicle design on your desk at work.
Microsoft showed off HoloLens as part of its broader Windows 10 unveiling Jan. 21. In theory, a camera embedded in the device will accurately gauge the wearer’s movements, as well as the contours of the surrounding environment, in order to seamlessly merge the real and digital worlds. Microsoft hasn’t offered a specific release date or price point, and it will presumably need to place the device in the hands of third-party developers before any consumer release, in order to build up an app library.
HoloLens suggests that Microsoft wants to own a significant chunk of the wearable-electronics space, and that it wants to do things more ambitious than, say, produce a watch that can also send health data to an app; that being said, what the audience saw at Microsoft’s presentation isn’t necessarily how the device will actually perform in the wild, at least in its first iteration. As with any new device in a nascent field, Microsoft will need to hit a sweet spot of price, functionality (re: lack of bugs), and utility if it wants HoloLens to have a shot at succeeding in the open marketplace.
But Microsoft also thinks it has a major asset in that effort: Minecraft, the hit game that it purchased from its original developer for $2 billion. The company hopes that the prospect of building a virtual world in the privacy of your own home will prove irresistibly attractive to millions of people.
HoloLens boasts one other advantage: Because it’s used in the relative privacy of one’s own home or office, there’s less chance of the negative backlash that greeted Google Glass.
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