Innovation

Microsoft HoloLens: What does it mean for business?

The introduction of an immersive, interactive, holographic interface from Microsoft could spell new opportunities for businesses and brands in the future.

Image: CNET

Microsoft announced the Windows Holographic experience at its Windows 10 event on Wednesday, which is a new immersive, augmented platform. Microsoft wants to put a weather report on your kitchen counter and soccer game on your empty wall, and they want to do it with the HoloLens.

HoloLens is a headset that facilitates an augmented reality experience "where your real world is blended with your digital world," according to their video promo.

"Our industry is constantly evolving towards more personal computing and we want to take the next step by placing your digital content right into your world, right into your life, with more relevance than ever before," a Microsoft spokesperson told TechRepublic.

Microsoft's Alex Kipman said at the event that HoloLens is the first fully untethered holographic computer. The headset includes motion sensors, spatial sound, and transparent lenses. Microsoft built a holographic processing unit to power the headset.

The introductory video showed scenes both at home and in the office, highlighting collaboration, especially among people in separate locations. Gartner analyst Brian Blau said uses could range from creating designs and prototyping, to training and instruction, to situations where a user needs both hands for a task like machine operation.

"There are many more use cases as well, especially for communications where the user could substitute the HMD for flat screens to bring that communication into a more personal setting," he said.

Microsoft referenced the potential of app development. Blau said that taking the platform approach means more developers and end users, consumers, and businesses will have easier access to the technology.

"We are excited about all the possibilities and experiences that will come to this platform and device including applications that span productivity, communications and entertainment," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

What HoloLens could mean for brands at the moment is still to be determined. Forrester's vice president and principal analyst Thomas Husson thinks that while this technology will have an impact on entertainment first, "marketers in all industries should start anticipating new opportunities to deliver their brand experiences."

Looking big picture, he said, "I think Microsoft's HoloLens is a game-changer and will change the way we as individuals interact with machines and objects around us."

Microsoft also announced HoloStudio, which will allow users to create their own holograms.

Image: CNET

Husson thinks it will open up new ways for brands to interact with consumers because of what he called a "new natural computing interface," one that's neither fully augmented reality nor virtual reality.

"I don't think it should be compared to fully immersive Virtual reality like Oculus Rift. Instead of isolating you from the world around you, it will rather offer mixed digital and physical interactions," he said.

Husson also said that the fact that the holographic interface is embedded in Windows 10 could offer brands a platform that should quickly offer reach.

Looking at the broader field, Microsoft's entrance could accelerate the timeline for other similar products in development.

"I do feel that by Microsoft coming into the market that does create some pressure for others who have similar ambitions, but I'll also note that the HMD's are not new and there is a long history here of tech companies trying and failing," Blau said.

That said, he does think that this round of innovation on immersive devices is more mature. As Blau said, AR and VR aren't new, but this might finally be the point in time where the technology catches up to the hype.

Blau has a demo of HoloLens and said it's some of the best immersive hardware and software he's seen in years.

"The technology has advanced enough to allow for these products to reach market and on the app side, developers really just need to start creating immersive experiences," he said.

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