Microsoft is making a bet on the hologram as the future of personal computing with a new device called HoloLens. This morning the company announced the HoloLens will ship to developers on March 30.
The developers' kit will cost $3,000, and it comes pre-loaded with apps. There's everything from a holographic version of Skype to an eerie crime drama game called Fragments. As developers jigger with the device's software and determine its capabilities, look for a variety of apps to be catching your eye in the near future. Where virtual reality headsets replace one's reality entirely, the HoloLens overlays graphics onto whatever's already there. Last year, alien invaders seemingly broke through real walls of a real room during a public demonstration of a game called Project X-Ray.
HoloLens technology isn't only about reality-bending games, however. Now entire walls can become projector screens, playing computer media anywhere you like in your house, big or small. In a 2015 demo, a movie played on one wall, a virtual calendar hovered over a desk, and a software implementation of a dog rested on the floor. (Microsoft outfitted the cameras with HoloLenses in order to be able to show all the action.)
These are relatively barebones applications of Microsoft's new platform. As these devices land in developers' hands at the end of next month, developers will begin to tinker and think about how else HoloLens technology might be applied. Just as the Android and iOS smartphones run their own individual sets of apps, HoloLens is a platform of its own. It's the iPhone of putting realistic fake stuff over real stuff. HoloLens drives an interesting halfway point between a wholly and partially simulated world. It's not quite virtual reality, but it's way too interesting to be conventional reality.