I apologise for the rather long blog, but stay with me, you'll want to read all of this. Oh, and this is not going to be a boring, techno-babbled, acronym-overdosed article that will leave most technophobes none the wiser about this pioneering technology. Although, I do need to cover some technical aspects first.
Yes the HoloLens is tether-free and has a multitude of sensors that track and analyse your surroundings in real time. Yes the holographic processing unit is incredibly advanced, and yes the optics were probably devised in outer space (and extracted in Area51). There. Still with me? Great!
Unlike Samsung's GearVR and HTC's Vive headsets the HoloLens headset doesn't completely immerse your vision. Herein lies the big difference. The HoloLens is a transparent headset that augments digital content into your world, rather than placing you entirely within a virtual one. The real and digital realms fuse together beautifully. Or to coin the buzz phrase of the moment, this really is "mixed-reality".
Films like Minority Report have long set our expectations (and the precedent) for future technology. In the same way that Tom Cruise customised his physical surroundings with digital content in Speilberg's blockbuster, the HoloLens makes this science fiction a reality.
With natural gestures (like a simple pinch or tap) you can put a web browser to the left of you, a video player to your right (I feel like singing "stuck in the middle with you" right now). That's just some of the 'normal' content you can place.
Fancy placing an interactive, 3D, holographic intersection of the solar system in front of you? Or a giant Peter Jackson-inspired Ork behind you? Be my guest.
Taking the headset off or getting a friend to spin you around vigorously won't affect the placement of the content either. The aforementioned environment tracking means they'll be right where you left them. You can even walk around and through the digital environment you've created.
The occlusion needs some refinement but it's still very impressive. Previous augmented reality solutions would appear magical until someone stood in front of it - thus breaking the illusion that the content was only ever pinned to the device's screen. The HoloLens does a remarkable job of not only seeing people and objects that appear around your content, the 'holographic computer' intelligently masks the elements as they move in front it.
That said, Microsoft aren't targeting the consumer marketplace anytime soon. This is first and foremost an enterprise-level device...for now.
I'm trying my best to communicate just how good the HoloLens is and this is also Microsoft's marketing challenge too. The problem with most computer-rendered visualisations is that you just don't believe they correctly represent what you will really experience. I can categorically tell you that's simply not the case with the Microsoft HoloLens. The digital content really is as good as the pictures suggest and the gesture and gaze-based interactions are wonderfully natural.
To get your hands on one you need to either be a business customer or a developer. Oh, and you need nearly £3,000 to buy the entry level unit. The Commercial Suite won't give you much change from £5,000 either.
According to Microsoft's CEO (Satya Nadella), the HoloLens is on a five year journey that started in 2016. If it's this good now, how incredible will it become when it reaches Microsoft's desired destination?!?!
Industries like architects, animators and logistics have already embraced the HoloLens. For me however, experiential marketing is where it'll truly excel. We've been sworn to secrecy by a little thing called an NDA, but we're about to roll out a HoloLens experience for a very well known car manufacturer. Although this is a project we're incredibly excited about, we recognise that this technology hasn't even left the maternity ward yet.
If you'd like to know more about the marketing and experiential possibilities, and even get hands-on with the HoloLens, get in touch. That's if our Developers can prise it off my head.