Exciting news from the world of virtual reality. The next generation of technology will be one where NASA scientists, architects, gamers and everyday people can step into an augmented reality where they can see and manipulate a virtual 3-D world like it's really in front of them.
Just think about the possibilities. What if an astronaut was stranded on Mars and needed help to build a shelter? With holographic computing software, or augmented reality, a team of NASA scientists on Earth could see the tools and equipment the astronaut has in front of him, even millions of miles away, to come up with a solution. But what about closer to home?
Imagine an architect wants to change the design of a house that's under construction. Instead of tweaking 2-D CAD drawings or fiddling with an on-screen 3-D model, augmented reality can give them a 3-D view of the building right on the desk in front of them. They can manipulate pieces or replace them completely in seconds.
That's not science fiction. It's reality, and it's happening now thanks to Microsoft's HoloLens technology that we've been telling you about for months.
Microsoft has been working in near secrecy with NASA and private companies to develop applications for HoloLens. We've seen little sneak previews here and there, but today Microsoft vastly increased the number of companies that will be working on HoloLens apps.
Microsoft is now accepting applications for its HoloLens Development Kit. Microsoft hasn't said how many development kits it will issue, but it did say they'll start coming out early next year. Unfortunately, it also set the price at $3,000, which is a bit steep for individuals. However, after a few generations of commercial development it will probably be down to reasonable levels.
To get developers, and future users, excited about the technology, Microsoft unveiled an augmented reality game. You have to see this.
First, here's a quick reminder of how HoloLens works. When you put on a pair of HoloLens goggles, it uses video cameras and other sensors to create a 3-D map of your surroundings. HoloLens is continually reading your position, and calculating where you are in relation to the objects around you.
Then virtual images are projected onto the glasses in front of you. You still see the real world in front of you, but with extra information. Suddenly, a NASA scientist, for example, can see a 3-D image of the wrench an astronaut on Mars is holding in his hand. Or you can place your home design onto your coffee table; just reach out and take off the second floor and replace it with another one. Or, you can play games.
Microsoft's first attempt at an augmented reality game is "Project X-Ray." (See the video below.) The player wears the HoloLens goggles, and sees monsters breaking through his living room walls. The player shoots at them with a virtual high-tech laser gun that's wrapped around his hand.
To use HoloLens, you don't need a specialized computer. And there are no wires or cords to plug in, so you can move around like you would in real life.
The technology is still very much a work in progress. Today's development kit applications should help accelerate development by making HoloLens available to many more developers. For the rest of us, HoloLens could eventually hit store shelves, but no word yet on when that may be.