Microsoft HoloLens, Mixed Reality, and regular folks

We do these Technology Thursdays at home over dinner.  I tried to explain what HoloLens is to one of my kids and the conversation went something like this.

What’s HoloLens?

(I go to the Microsoft website to get more information.)

According to Microsoft, the HoloLens headset lets you “interact with high‑definition holograms in your world.”  They also say that by “understanding your environment, mixed reality enables holograms to look and sound like they’re part of your world.” Microsoft tracks where your eyes are looking so you can use your eyes instead of moving a mouse.   You use hand gestures instead of clicking the mouse.  You also can use your voice to control what’s happening.

Ok…mmm…so are there any fun games?

(I instantly give “the look”.)

I think HoloLens and other mixed reality systems like Magic Leap can be used for more than just entertainment.

Think about what you and other people can make with this technology.

There is a computer science class at a college that got publicity using HoloLens for their class projects.  The students came up with several projects, including a cooking application where the program shows you how to make a dish, step by step.  This is better than a cooking video on your phone because you can stop and rewind without using your hands and you also have a hologram of the next step in front of you on the table.

A major company that makes elevators and escalators uses HoloLens to help technicians fix them.

Galaxy Explorer let you explore galaxies in your home.  The full source code is fully available for free online.  You can build this and modify the code.

Okay, but if I have an idea, how could I even start?

Microsoft is really good with helping new developers learn how to use new technologies (well, Microsoft technologies, that is).  HoloLenses are not out yet, but Microsoft sells development HoloLenses for people who want to start building applications early.  The Microsoft HoloLens Development Kit is expensive but it is available online.  If you want to do something for free, you actually don’t even have to spend the money and buy the dev kit.

You can use what’s called an emulator to simulate a HoloLens on your computer.  You will want to learn Unity and develop with Unity for Microsoft HoloLens.

There is also the free Holograms 101 course.

Another HoloLens capability is what’s called Actiongrams.

Microsoft HoloLens Actiongram
Microsoft HoloLens Actiongram

These let you basically use holographic special effects in your own videos.  You can record yourself, your surroundings and an animated hologram interacting with your environment to tell a story through video.


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