Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 and the HoloLens Augmented Reality Goggles
Typically when Microsoft announces new features and software packages, gaming takes a backseat. Recently, though, Microsoft has made a decision for all of their software to have a kind of unified family of devices from phones to tablets to PCs to servers to the Xbox One. The intent is to have one way to write apps, one way to find them in a store, and similar user interfaces regardless of the device or input style (which includes pens, mouse, keyboard, controller, Kinect, touch, or otherwise).
Windows 10 as a concept is meant to leapfrog their current release of Windows 8.1 and take Windows into yet another trendy direction. One feature in particular that was mentioned was bringing Cortana (the handy little AI that she is) from use on the Windows Phone to PCs. Now what that means to the rest of us is that now the whole ‘Siri’ or voice recognition software will be available for use on PCs. The intent is to introduce a whole new level of multitasking. She can write emails for you. She can notify you of certain things. She can remind you to do something. She can tell you weather and update you on sports scores right in the midst of whatever it is you’re doing.
With regards to the Xbox, Windows 10 is integrating a handy little Xbox app that is dedicated to unifying (to some degree) PC gaming and the Xbox One. In addition to giving you info on you Xbox Live experiences on your PC, the Xbox app will allow for a new Game DVR feature. This will allow you to automatically record PC gameplay for sharing purposes at any time. Currently, the Xbox One does this as well but only in short clips. Once altered in a video editing feature, the modified recording can be sent to the ‘One Drive’ which is just cloud space dedicated to all of your files, photos, and videos.
More interesting is the capability to stream Xbox One games from your console to other Windows 10 devices. This means if your family or parents are using the TV that your Xbox One is on, you can run back to your room and play whatever Xbox One game you have on your PC. My guess is that this means you either have it digitally on the console or you have to be certain the correct disc is in the console in order to play it though. Should be interesting to see how responsive online games are to this feature.
Beyond that is Microsoft’s venture into augmented reality with their new Hololens. In my eyes, virtual reality has so many limitations in that it completely locks you out from the real world. With augmented reality, devices intend to bring the digital world to the real world in useful bits an pieces. Imagine being able to have a meeting and take a 3D model of your project to be editable by all wearing the headset that is quite similar to the Google Glass concept. The need for monitors could effectively disappear as walls become your screen and can be made as big or small as you need. Your hands and voice are made into a control scheme that essentially has the potential to put the Kinect to shame in a big way. In the demo, they even showed someone using the Hololens to play Minecraft. Imagine how quickly creations could be made for use in the game using your hands and voice to cue block placement and a host of other things.
Of course this new holographic projection technology isn’t intended solely for gaming purposes. Apparently NASA is intending to use Microsoft’s technology as early as July with the Mars rover. It will allow for them to take the data and visuals that the rover sees to examine and plan out what they wish to see and do on Mars using an application called OnSight.
“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C, said in a statement. “It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover.” [Mars Photos by NASA’s Curiosity Rover]
I’m sure that this HoloLens will eventually have a real holographic Cortana to assist at some point as well. In my eyes, this venture is the logical evolution of virtual reality to something quite a bit less restrictive. Of course the race between augmented reality wearables and virtual reality wearables will certainly become an interesting one in the next year.