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Microsoft Shoots for the Stars with their New HoloLens Headset

Last week we reported on the Google Glass Project going underground until further notice. Google had taken the decision to reinvent their augmented reality device that just wasn't connecting with the consumer as first hoped for. In hindsight it now makes sense why Google chose to make that announcement so public at that particular point in time. Today Microsoft introduced HoloLens, an all-new holographic headset that will be powered by Windows 10.


Today, Microsoft's Alex Kipman, who is considered one of the "fathers of the Kinect" and who joined one of Microsoft's wearable projects back in 2013, introduced the Microsoft HoloLens during the Windows 10 event. Kipman announced that every build of Windows 10 would have support for holographic user interfaces that users would be able to interact with in 3D.


For the record, Microsoft had filed for a number of headset patents over the years. Two of them were covered in reports from our Patently Mobile IP blog. The first was titled "Microsoft Invents Advanced Optics for Future Xbox Eyewear," while the second was titled "Microsoft Invents Projector Eyewear for Xbox & Beyond." We also reported on rumor about such a headset in 2014 which was titled "Microsoft Rumored to be Preparing an Xbox VR Headset for 2015." So in that respect, today's announcement is fulfilling elements of patents that are on record.


On another note, Microsoft's HoloLens is also far ahead of Facebook's Oculus Rift as it will not only apply to Xbox games but also to advanced CAD applications and so much more. The Oculus Rift via Samsung's Gear VR is a joke compared to Microsoft's technology that doesn't require a smartphone to power it.



Kipman went on to describe how Microsoft had to create a whole new processor for HoloLens and that the device would also integrate spatial sound so as to create an all new user experience when in use with future gaming, entertainment, 3D CAM and other areas. It was mentioned that NASA is now using this technology to help astronauts prepare for their mission to Mars.



While Microsoft demonstrated this new device through the eyes of one wearing it on stage, I just couldn't see this device being a mass market device for years if not a decade down the road. Was it interesting? Yes. But it truly felt more like a huge, loud gimmick before introducing Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella so as to give him something to bounce off of for his keynote message.


Beyond HoloLens, the Microsoft event showing off Windows 10 presented ideas that everyone on the net already knew was coming from leaked news this week. CNN reported yesterday that the event was likely to cover Xbox integration, a new browser called Spartan, Continuum (all apps across all Windows 10 devices, and Cortana for the desktop. That's what the event covered.


All those bullet points played out on stage with very few surprises. Yet I had interest in Cortana coming to Windows 10 for the desktop. It will be able to work with Microsoft's entire suite of apps so that you can ask Cortana to pull any file, document, tune, photo or Xbox game you want without any fuss.


Amazon introduced Echo during the holiday season and it brought the "digital assistant" to the living room. In 2012 there was an Apple patent that hinted that Siri could work with iTunes on a desktop and a master Siri patent showed us where the digital assistant could be applied to over time.


Yet with Echo out of the box and Cortana on the way to Windows 10, we have to speculate a little here and say that Apple is likely to put the push on to get Siri on OS X and integrated to work with more applications later this year. Then again, you know Apple – they'll do nothing before its time. Yet with Apple having had such a lead over Microsoft on this front, it seems more like they simply dropped the ball a little on this one. But that's just my opinion, of course.


Microsoft Surface Hub


3AF - 5 - Surface Hub

The only other interesting development revealed today during the Windows 10 event was an all-new large screen white board for the enterprise called Surface Hub. The new device is technically an 84-inch 4K display that's a computer able to handle multitouch and surface pen input, has a built-in camera, speakers, microphones and more importantly, a new version of Skype for the enterprise. The two demonstrations covered "Meetings" and "Brainstorming." Whether these were a part of built-in apps wasn't really clear.


The one interesting demo showed how easy it was to manipulate a 3D CAD file on screen so as to assist the group in discussing a particular problem they had to work on. Engineers and architects are going to love this tool with or without HoloLens.


Surface Hub was impressive, even if it was only version 1.0. It was impressive because those in the meeting could access the content, or the meeting itself, on any desktop or mobile device supporting Windows 10 in real time. So meetings on the fly could bring in experts or colleagues wherever they are and contribute to the meeting.


As for Windows 10 returning the traditional desktop to users, I think it could spur on sales later this year as the Metro interface will no longer apply when in desktop mode. On the other hand, Microsoft is introducing a new browser with Windows 10 that some may not appreciate at this juncture. They should have waited for Windows 10.1 to introduce a new browser and make it optional at first. The majority of Windows desktop users just want their traditional desktop returned to them with the same old Internet Explorer that their familiar with. Microsoft really doesn't get that point. Then again, they're just trying to balance the needs for old and new Windows users which isn't always easy to do.


The Bottom Line


There was a lot of build up going into today's Windows 10 event. Some decried that this was Microsoft's last chance to make the case why Windows was still relevant. While I found the event to be mildly interesting – it ultimately failed to deliver any kind of meaningful punch that their critics were looking for. That's why they threw in their new HoloLens device at the last moment, even though it's probably not ready for prime time.


Microsoft desperately needed to show that they could still make a meaningful and "cool" contribution to the industry. Something iPhone-like perhaps; something with a whiz-bang feel to it; something marking a special moment in time. Yet while Alex Kipman tried his very best to use every enthusiastic adjective he could muster and talk up Microsoft's "secret project" that was years in the making, it just didn't connect to what I was actually seeing in the presentation. Yes, it will get a few "wows" thrown its way for a few quick moments at first glance followed by "snores" of total boredom.


Putting aside their pixie-dust, those who wanted to hear Microsoft confirm once again that they'll be returning the traditional desktop to Windows 10 were pleased. Interestingly Microsoft spent all of 30 seconds on this vital feature to entice old Windows fans back to the fold. It was like they wanted us to forget their historic gaff and that they were disappointed that they had to backpedal from their original vision. As quickly as they could they shifted to new features that were oh-so important to them, such as introducing auto photo correction: zzzzznore. 


Yet the lack of showmanship aside, for those who need to be productive and make their every moment count, Windows 10 will be the breakthrough needed to accomplish this. Worker bees will be able to access their documents and photos in real time on any Windows 10 device and even catch that important meeting they're late for while stuck in a cab. For many, that's all that really matters.


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