I get really excited when a big tech firm starts talking about Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR).
By now, I’m sure a lot of you are aware that Microsoft are bring their own device to the VR/AR world of technology. They’ve already started to ship the development edition which means we will most likely start seeing first hand experience and reviews regarding the long awaited for device from Microsoft.
Virtual Reality Headset?
No, not quite. This device is not to be confused with the popular Oculus Rift which is indeed a true Virtual Reality headset. The HoloLens is basically a visor, so once you place it on your head, you will be able to see straight through it – just like some very expensive Safety Goggles you had to wear back in Chemistry class.
So this obviously allows you to see your own environment. But what’s interesting is that the headset has micro optical projectors built into it, that essentially projects digital content onto the ‘visor’ allowing you to see a mixture of your world, and the computers world, this is called Augmented Reality. It’s where the computer ‘augments’ content on-top of your own environment.
Virtual Reality headsets don’t do this, they put you into a complete virtual world in whereby all you see is computer generated content.
This by far, isn’t new technology at all, it has been around for decades mainly used as a heads up display for fighter pilots in the form of large bulky helmets. But as usual, technology over time starts to shrink in size, yet gain more power, which equals a better experience!
In order to view digital content into someones real environment (as an overlay – augmented) it requires the computer to understand about the environment you’re in, such as depth and 3D positioning.
This requires some serious sensors on board the head unit, which it does! It’s able to capture information about what you’re doing and the environment around you. This is achieved with an array of camera on the headset, such as 3D depth cameras, IR cameras and stereoscopic cameras. The CPU then takes all this information and is able to project the 3D content onto the visor of the headset, giving the illusion that it’s actually there, in your room!
Like I said, this is essentially giving the illusion that there is digital content within your environment, but it’s simply just a micro image you’re seeing within the visor of the headset, giving the impression that it is overlaid within, or on top of your actual environment. No one else will be able to see what you’re seeing, or interacting with, unless they are equipped with a headset too!
And yes – this may look odd if you’re running around a room whilst a fire breathing dragon is following you as you duck and roll to try and avoid being burnt to a crisp (so to speak). When in reality, none of this is happening, and you’ll look like a fool to someone who is just sat in the corner trying to read a news paper and drink their coffee.
With all that in mind, I honestly can’t wait until this device becomes commercial. I’m trying to get my hands on one, however they only ship to U.S and Canada currently, and it will set me back by $3,000!