What Is Microsoft HoloLens? Here’s the Story in Two Minutes

What Is Microsoft HoloLensIf you’re excited about Facebook Inc’s “Oculus Rift,” watch out for “HoloLens” from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). While it’s not yet available to the general public, the Microsoft HoloLens is going to be a game-changing device.

Since a lot of people aren’t yet familiar with the Oculus Rift or Microsoft HoloLens, it’s probably best to review what each device actually is. Both the Oculus Rift and the Microsoft HoloLens are part of a new technology trend known as virtual/augmented reality.

Let me explain…

Virtual reality (VR) headsets close off your field of view. You can’t see anything around you when wearing a VR headset, but why would you want to? VR headsets like the Oculus Rift create an immersive environment that makes you feel like you’re actually in the content.

Imagine you’re playing a first-person shooter game using the Oculus Rift VR headset. You catch a glimpse of movement in the top, left-hand corner of your viewscreen. Normally, your fingers would react automatically, turning your character to see if there’s anything there. Using the VR headset, though, you just swivel your head. It feels like you’re inside the game.

That’s what virtual reality is, but Microsoft HoloLens operates using slightly different technology. It’s called augmented reality (AR). AR devices like the Microsoft HoloLens are completely see-through (like a pair of glasses without magnification), so they don’t block your field of view at all. Instead of immersing you in the content, AR headsets make the content look like a hologram (hence, the name HoloLens).

If this sounds like science fiction to you, it’s because reality is finally catching up to what we see in the movies. The future is finally here.

Take a look at this video:

By any relevant metric, the Microsoft HoloLens is a technological leap forward. The company’s engineers have made a device that brings the digital world off your screen and into your surroundings. It has a nearly limitless number of potential applications.

In that way, the Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens are exact opposites. The Rift creates a digital world that you can fall into, whereas the HoloLens transports that digital content out of the screen. AR advocates believe this is what makes the Microsoft HoloLens the next computing platform—it breaks the barrier between reality and the digital world. (By contrast, Oculus deepens that divide.)

How the Microsoft HoloLens Could Change Your Life

Imagine you’re at home watching a basketball game. You’ve heard that the NBA recently started filming games with 360-degree cameras. Rather than turning on the television, you put on the Microsoft HoloLens headset.

A holographic screen pops up in front of you, showing Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James defended by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. LeBron shoots a three-pointer and is fouled by Curry—except you’re not sure that it’s a foul.

During the replay, you switch to a 3D model where the entire court looks like an animated foosball table. You shrink it to fit on your coffee table and then play it in slow motion. Yes, it definitely was a foul. You can see that from the various angles.

That future is almost here.

Augmented reality is all about integrating holograms into our daily lives, which is why many people (myself included) are incredibly excited about it. The Microsoft HoloLens is not something that you’ll only use when playing video games or watching movies—its potential uses are limitless.

The Bottom Line on the Microsoft HoloLens

The Microsoft HoloLens is something that has the power to change how you interact with the world. Investors are hoping the device will become the next computing platform, much in the same way that Apple Inc.’s “iPhone” usurped the dominance of personal computers.

That’s part of the reason why Microsoft’s share price has risen 20.87% over the last 12 months.

Image source: Flickr; Image copyright 2015, Jorge Figueroa