$3,000 HoloLens ready to ship March 30
HoloLens, Microsoft's long-awaited, untethered augmented reality glasses, rolls out to developers beginning March 30.
The price will be $3,000, the company announced Monday. Those interested in obtaining the HoloLens Development Edition can apply online.
HoloLens is an AR device capable of projecting holographic images into the wearer's field of view without blacking out the real world. That contrasts with so-called virtual reality goggles such as Facebook's Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both of which are also due out this year.
HoloLens does have one distinct advantage over many of its rivals in that it is a fully self-contained unit, powered by hardware tucked inside the visor that leverages Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. VR devices that do not run off smartphones are connected by a cable to computers, as is the case with most of HoloLens' AR rivals.
Augmented and virtual reality hardware is making fast progress, but the content applications for both types of devices is moving at a slower pace. While manufacturers of AR/VR hardware have seen healthy interest in the enterprise space, consumer adoption is expected to hinge on broader content options.
"Nothing illustrates key development strategies and best practices like being able to see and experience a comprehensive portfolio of actual holographic apps," writes HoloLens developer Kudo Tsunoda in a Microsoft blog post. "It is with this in mind that we have provided for developers a free portfolio of holographic experiences for people to enjoy."
Those in-headset applications include HoloStudio, which offers HoloLens users tutorials on hologram creation; Microsoft-owned Skype, which showcases how video based communication with enter the realm of 3D; and HoloTour, which shows how wearers can walk around exotic locations free from a computer cable connection. This edition of HoloLens will also come bundled with three games, Fragments, Young Conker and RoboRaid. Gaming is expected to be a huge driver of AR and VR tech alike.
In his tech spec-laden blog post, HoloLens director of engineering Alex Kipman addresses the global community of engineers that he hopes will help make HoloLens a leading player in the coming AR boom. AR/VR tech is expected to be a $120 billion business by 2020, according to industry advisors Digi-Capital.
"The key to a great holographic experience is holograms that are light point rich, that is they have a high holographic density and are pinned, or anchored, to the world around you," writes Kipman. "To achieve this, HoloLens has been designed for optimal holographic density of 2.5K radiants. The more radiants and light points there are, the brighter and richer the holograms become."
Microsoft has been putting HoloLens through its paces with a growing list of partners. Those include NASA, which gave a headset to astronaut Scott Kelly in order to help visually guide him through specific tasks remotely, and Volvo, which hopes to give customers a more vivid in-store experience when configuring a new car in holographic form.
Those corporate efforts aside, much like Apple's iPhone took flight once developers began populating its App Store with millions of apps, AR/VR will only get lift-off once a similar array of must-have applications are created for this new wave of virtual technology.