$3,000 HoloLens Development Edition Due In March

While virtual reality will soon be in the hands and eyes of folks at home – pre-orders just opened for the HTC Vive, to ship in April, and the Oculus Rift launches at the end of this month – augmented reality goggles are a bit further out. While VR replaces your vision with a computer-generated world, AR is more of an overlay, making computer graphics appear in our world. Microsoft are preparing to launch the first version of their ‘HoloLens’ AR glasses to developers for $3,000, shipping on March 30th, and have shown off the games and software coming with that.

The HoloLens Development Edition is initially only for devs in the USA and Canada. And to be clear, that’s $3,000 for a model very much not intended for public use. This is for software developers to poke around and see what uses it can have – something Microsoft have seemed a bit hazy on.

The Development Edition will ship with a few bits of software. HoloStudio is a 3D package which lets folks build 3D models before their eyes ‘in’ the real world at real-world scale, controlling it with gestures, gazes, and voice commands. See a HoloStudio video over here. Microsoft have also whipped up a special version of Skype which lets folks share their augmented reality view and have others add to it, as you can see in this vid. They’ve also got HoloTour, which lets you wander around 3D views of scenes.

As for gaming on HoloLens, I do kinda like the look of Fragments. It’s a crime thriller bringing characters into your surroundings, turning your home into game levels. I’d have a play of that at a show, sure:

Then there’s Young Conker, turning bits of the world around you into levels for bad platforming. Microsoft just won’t let Conker die.

It looks rubbish, but hey, it’s a tech demo. Also a bit boring is RoboRaid, which invades your space with robots for FPS zapping:

And they’ve made Actiongram for storytelling in “mixed reality videos”.

It’s still not really clear how these will look in reality – we’ve mostly seen mockups so far.

A lot of these look like ideas we saw on AR phone apps and PlayStation Vita games, before those vanished because the novelty wore off real quick. Remember the AR craze of 2012? No, probably not.

But hey, the point of a Development Edition is to get more people working on software for AR glasses, figuring out what it’s useful for and who MS might sell it to. Clearly they don’t expect folks at home will be paying $3,000 to play bad video games.

I’d probably use AR glasses to make Sonic the Hedgehog stand just in the corner of my vision, tapping his foot impatiently. Adding a sense of urgency to my life, y’know. Or maybe an AR version of Sonic Movie Maker.

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29 Comments

  1. Cinek says:

    $3000? :O

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      Windows98 says:

      Unlike the Oculus and Vive, this is wireless and actually contains the whole computer.

      • Cinek says:

        OK, now it makes a little bit more sense.

        • Apocalypse says:

          And is actually around the same price as a Vive Ready PC + Vive + lighthouse sensors + motion controllers.

          • Cronstintein says:

            The problem being that I can use that $2000 for a lot of other fun games aside from VR, not sure what else you can do with that headset.

          • PseudoKnight says:

            While the horsepower is currently lacking, you can project a simulated screen in any location and play normal games on it. Similarly, since it has stereo built-in, it can act like a good 3D display with head tracking. It could even do VR if they made some modifications and increased the FoV. This type of thing is literally the future… it’s just this version is way way early. It’s too expensive, too slow, and it could be vastly improved as better transparent display tech is developed. That’s all going to change over 10-20 years. Tethered VR is a good “cheap” stop-gap, though. You get a lot of relatively easy quality by having a closed system with fancy lenses and fast computers.

      • fish99 says:

        So you don’t connect this to your existing PC? Seems like that would add a lot of weight to the headset, limit it’s battery life and more than double the price of an already expensive device.

  2. Christian Knudsen says:

    That Fragments game seems like it could be quite cool. Having something that’s supposed to be a human interacting with you in your living room is probably going to be a lot more immersive than robots clawing through the walls or a cartoon character jumping around.

    I wonder why there are no shadows being rendered from the AR objects onto the real world objects? The missing shadows make everything seem to be floating on top of the real world layer instead of being part of it.

    • mackemforever says:

      I would assume the lack of shadows isn’t because it’s not possible, but because it’s more complex to do and isn’t something that has been viewed as important for a tech demo.

  3. Johnnydalvi says:

    I’ll only buy it if it reads over 9000 of KI!

  4. Kefren says:

    Random thought: since paintings, some furniture designs, TV programs, product logos etc all have copyright, if you recorded yourself plyaing (what you see) and stuck it on Youtube, would you be illegally recording and sharing tons of copyright and trademarked images just in your living room, and therefore opening yourself up to copyright infringement prosecution?

    • mackemforever says:

      Regardless of whether it is technically illegal or not, it clearly isn’t something that companies take any action over unless it is clearly somebody purely sharing their copyrighted material rather than it just being something that is seen in shot.

      If it were completely illegal to show any copyrighted material in videos then youtube would be pretty empty! Almost every single video filmed in a real life environment will show something which is copyrighted or trademarked at some point, and even if it is technically illegal it’s not something that could ever be pursued by these companies because of the scale on which it happens.

    • Bull0 says:

      Does that happen now with home movies? (No).

      • Martel says:

        Funny enough infringement because a song came on in the movie in the background while I was taking a video of my daughter doing something funny. However that’s because of the automated assault companies do around music, not so much anybody actually targeting the background noise.

        • Cederic says:

          Sadly some 90% of the videos I’ve posted on Youtube are monetised by the music industry because of background music caught by my camera’s microphones.

          I need to find myself a new hosting provider; it’s their music but it’s my video footage, my copyright and my decision on whether I want adverts attached: no!

          • Cronstintein says:

            Might not be your background music after all. Merlin (and I presume others) are profiting off videos w/o music just because they can and there is no punishment for false Content ID claims.

  5. C0llic says:

    VR and AR are going to have a place, I’m just not convinced it will be in the home except for a select few. This AR stuff for example, I can see this is a great educational tool, or as an extension to walking tours around galleries and the like.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, I can imagine a bunch of business/professional applications like an architect previewing an addition to a client’s home, or a kitchen designer showing a remodeling job as an overlay on an existing kitchen. It would be great for previewing what color you wanted to paint a room, or the outside of a house.

      Also a good training tool for medical students, police, military, etc. where it’s an advantage to have people seeing each other in meatspace, instead of locked into a VR world.

  6. Simon_Scott says:

    I *still* don’t get how Hololens works. In standard VR you’re focusing on a screen that’s an inch or two away from your eyes. Your binocular vision is creating a sense of depth – perceiving an object at distance, but your eyes are still focusing at that 2″ range. From what I’ve seen of Hololens, the headset is a binocular overlay on a transparent screen. That would mean that you can either focus on the real background through the visor, causing the computer imagery to be out of focus, or you focus on the CGI and have the background out of focus. That doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory experience to me.

    Have I got that wrong? I’ve not seen anyone mention this anywhere, but it seems fundamental to the proposition. The only way round it would be to have a closed headset, with two cameras piping the outside world onto the screen with the CG overlayed on top.

    • JimboDeany says:

      Or have some form of sensor that can detect where your eyes are focusing and adjust the image to suit.

    • dysomniak says:

      It’s a hologram, like those foil stickers you had when you were a kid. That’s why it’s called the “Holo”lens.

      link to cnet.com

    • NthDegree256 says:

      I don’t have the optics background to sort out all the details, but I assume it’s by carefully controlling the light projected onto the visor, such that it behaves as if it is being reflected from much farther away. If you look at your reflection in a mirror (or even in a glass window) that you’re standing 3 feet away from, your eyes will be focusing on an illusory depth of 6 feet, not 3.

      I believe red dot and holographic gun sights (which you may be familiar with through video games, if not real life) use similar principles to basically simulate a target dot some imaginary distance away from the gun.

      • Simon_Scott says:

        I can well believe that it’s a problem they’ve solved, but as I can’t quite understand how they could have solved it, it’s sort of remained the key issue for me. I suppose some sort of lensing could manage it, but I can’t see how you could lens it with the hardware they’re showing.

        • boater_rich says:

          This is basically a type of Helmet mounted dispay which are already in use by the military. You collimate the light so it’s focused at infinity and therefore you look through it at your surroundings. The big difference here is the mil version is largely single colour and simple vector lines which are relatively simple to project.

          Way more excited about this long term than the occulus/vive. Read Halting State by Charles Stross for some great ideas of the possibilities!

    • Solidstate89 says:

      That’s because HoloLens isn’t VR, it’s AR. The difference is it’s name. You aren’t “focusing” on anything except your surroundings. The way the display works is by seamlessly integrating holographic imaging onto your surroundings via the transparent display that you look through.

      You can’t focus on one thing or the other, they are indistinguishable. Where you seem to be tripping up is believing this is a VR device when it most assuredly is not.

  7. Solidstate89 says:

    I’ve had no interest in VR like the Oculus and the Vive, but if MS manages to get this price down to around ~$1,000 for the consumer model, along with a vastly improved FoV, I’ll seriously consider picking this up.

    The early review that Peter Bright did on ArsTechnica regarding the “Mars Tour” where he walked around the surface of Mars sounded absolutely incredible.

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    yhancik says:

    “I’m sitting there and I look over to my right and I see the director Kirkland. She’s sitting there on the couch telling me to solve the mystery and I’m just like ok this is awesome and I can’t even begin to imagine what we could do with storytelling and with games with that power of having people in your space in your home.”

    You know, I don’t buy that. I never buy that when it comes to VR, or AR, or the Kinect or whatever other gizmo they’re trying to sell us with the promise of opening new potentials in gaming. The stagnation in video games doesn’t come from the fact that we’re using a rectangle screen, a mouse and a keyboard. This expensive tech is all fun and nice, but in terms of content it’s mostly a distraction from what actually matters.

    There’s more hope and potential in a week-long gamejam than in this 3000$ toy.

  9. zaphod42 says:

    AR isn’t mature yet, while VR is. HoloLens is just a showoff prototype, not a real product. Its like the original Microsoft Surface Table, which cost $2,000 so nobody ever bought one. Its to the point where “surface” was re-branded as a tablet, and the surface table has a new name now that nobody remembers because it never sold. Hololens will be the next Zune.

  10. KastaRules says:

    I’ll take three !!!