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It felt a little like I had a “golden” ticket from Willy Wonka. The ticket in my possession allowed me to be one of the lucky people to experience first-hand, Microsoft’s new HoloLens device at their event in New York last month. And it was cooler than an ever-lasting gobstopper for sure.HoloLens HypeThere’s no shortage of hype around Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. For the better part of two years, the emerging technology team here at Primacy has been following the trail of press releases and news stories on how HoloLens will revolutionize the AR/VR worlds. But truthfully, you have to experience it to believe it…and that’s just what I did.Microsoft Hololens TechWhat Is HoloLens?Microsoft’s HoloLens is a truly innovative blend of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Through the use of a HoloLens headset with transparent lenses and sensors, people can see, hear and experience 3D images or video overlayed on top of real-world surroundings—blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Rather than immerse the user in a 3D fantasy world, like the Oculus Rift, HoloLens overlays 3D images on top of the actual environment users are in. The brilliance of the HoloLens experience is its ability to seamlessly blend worlds to create far richer immersive experiences.Microsfot Hololens DeviceFirst ImpressionsThe headset fit comfortably and light-weight--easily adjustable. The stereoscopic 3D display and “binaural audio” (hearing sounds spatially in 360 degrees) enabled me to hear both real world sounds in real time as well as the sounds associated with the HoloLens experience.

It also includes a first of its kind HPU “Holographic Processing Unit” which efficiently handles the gesture recognition and spatial mapping aspects that make the experience feel so natural. Microsoft has not officially released the specs of the CPU, GPU, or HPU but we were told that the headset can safely process gigabytes if not terabytes of data from its sensors and draw hundreds of unique objects in real time.

From a developer perspective, the experience is built off a Universal Windows Platform app, which lets developers build more scalable applications across platforms and possibly leverage shared distribution models. The headset supports WiFi and Bluetooth, so streaming interactivity and BLE triggered actions can all be utilized.  To add, the HoloLens rendering of 3D assets is pretty impressive

Way Beyond GamesThe uses for HoloLen's technology beyond the world of games is limitless—from teaching and medicine to entertainment and customer service. Doctors will be able see inside a patient in real-time to examine and diagnose. History students can touch the Mona Lisa or hold use the Guttenberg Bible. Future astronauts can explore the surface of Mars. Power plant workers can make repairs with detailed step-by-step guides that overlay systems and tell workers the exact parts needed.HoloLens Competition Is Heating UpWhile Microsoft seems to have a distinct lead, there are other players making noise in the VR/AR market. Magic Leap, a company that has raised over ½ a billion dollars is evidently close to releasing their product to the masses. Magic Leap has been tight-lipped though, and the technology, in as much as you can glean from their demos, is nearly identical to HoloLens.   Another competitor, Meta One, is a slick, Kickstarter funded AR/VR technology that does pretty much the same thing that HoloLens does. Meta One is a relatively small company with a fraction of the resources of Microsoft. Yet, they have done a remarkable job in creating a sleek alternative to HoloLens. Whole New World…LiterallyWith other advances in special sound design, sensor technology and new applications hitting the market, immersive VR/AR experiences will only get more sophisticated and useful. Amazingly, the gap between what we can imagine doing and what we can actually do is shrinking so fast, it is difficult for our imaginations to keep pace…but try we will.