With the recent announcement of Microsoft's new product HoloLens, this is an exciting time to think about new technologies and how they are changing the creative industries.
At first glance, HoloLens has more than just a few similarities with wearable headset Google Glass. But a deeper look suggests they are both quite different, aiming to attract different audiences and operating in different areas of the market. Google Glass was trying to appeal to the masses (and arguably that was behind the downfall of its first outing to market in the UK), whereas HoloLens is aiming mainly for businesses and encouraging collaboration within them.
Then there's the Oculus Rift, which has been designed more with gamers in mind, but which, along with other headset technologies (and wearable tech more generally), starts to offer some really interesting ideas to explore in our creative projects. For instance, combining virtual reality headsets with programs like Unreal Engine would allow us to create explorable cg environments that give the audience a real sense of space.
Or perhaps, if headset technology becomes more mainstream, retail brands could harness the HoloLens to bring up 'serving suggestions' or related products when a customer is shopping in a supermarket, for example.
We've recently been experimenting with the Oculus in the studio to see how we can best use it to benefit our clients' needs, but we'd love to get our hands on a HoloLens as well. Alex Farrell, who has been leading much of our research in this area, had this to say: "Augmented reality has never really become the seamless experience it has promised to be. Cameras and markers lose sync, wayfinding apps are blighted by lag and poor connection speeds. If HoloLens can overcome these issues and make the workplace its domain, then it could be a revolutionary success."
Though Oculus Rift and HoloLens are quite similar, there are differences. Whilst the Oculus transports you to an entirely new virtual world, the HoloLens is more concerned with interacting with the real world around you and letting your digital presence combine with your physical one, to offer a new way of practical computing. In this sense it differs also to Google Glass, which operates more like a social media tool and extension of your mobile phone. Another key difference that sets the HoloLens apart is that it doesn't have to be connected to another device to work properly, it's a self-contained unit.
Perhaps there might be something interesting in combining products together. For example: how about an administrator using the functions of HoloLens to design, develop and change a virtual experience that a user might be having on an Oculus Rift, whilst they are actually using it? For property developers this might mean the ability to design an empty floorplate to the customer's bespoke specifications in real time.
With announcements of connections between HoloLens and NASA, it seems there are really exciting developments yet to come and it'll be interesting to see where it goes in the near future. There are currently no prices or release dates for Microsoft's new product as of yet, but definitely watch this space!
03 February 2015