Strap on a HoloLens and enter the AR conference room


When Alex from Microsoft Kipman logged in to our meeting last week, he introduced himself as a cartoon avatar standing somewhere between my cluttered desk and a kitchen full of outdated appliances. This holographic version of Kipman didn’t surprise me in one way or another – maybe I got too many augmented reality demos at this point – but showing up in my apartment, when he was physically in Redmond, Washington, is what Microsoft thinks the future of AR will be.

But first, I had to ask: is Microsoft working on consumer friendly AR glasses? ‘Cause the thing that we both wore on our heads HoloLens 2, well… that’s pretty extra. It’s technically sophisticated, a full-fledged computer for the face, with 2K displays in each eye and built-in spatial sound and 6DoF position tracking. But the helmet is big, expensive, and brutally futuristic. The first version of HoloLens was designed for developers, who were supposed to create compelling apps for it. The second version is sold to corporate clients – entities ranging from Airbus to automakers to the U.S. military (which has been a source some controversy).

If mixed reality headsets are to be used more widely, a couple of things are going to have to happen: They’ll need killer apps, and the hardware has to be something that people actually want to wear on their faces. Hence my question to Kipman, the man who invented HoloLens, about when these things would evolve beyond the corporate niche.

Kipman didn’t really respond. He was more inclined to talk about Microsoft Mesh, the new mixed reality platform Microsoft announced today at its annual conference Ignite Conference, which takes place virtually. The mesh is fed by Azure blue, the company’s cloud computing service. The software will allow people located in different physical places to meet in a mixed reality to meet or find each other. That’s the big news today, and Kipman wants to stay on topic.

“We’re not going to talk about hardware today, and there is nothing to disclose,” Kipman replied. As he spoke, a holographic mini Alex Kipman was stuck upside down in a holographic convertible, the result of our resizing and transforming a series of virtual objects in this bizarre space. “But we’re leading mixed reality today, and the goal is to continue leading it.”

“But it would be foolish at this point if you were not experimenting with AR glasses, ”I say.

“I think you would be right,” he replied.

Later, I would talk to John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, creator of the popular augmented reality game. Pokemon go, about the company’s new partnership with Microsoft and how it plans to use this new Mesh software.

“[HoloLens] is not a device that you will wear on the street. We are using HoloLens 2 as an experimental platform to start working with this material before future consumer-compatible AR glasses are ready, ”Hanke said. Understood: AR glasses are the future. And this new mixed reality software from Microsoft will kind of get us there.

There can be The case for AR glasses has not been better or worse than the experience I had trying to attend meetings in large headsets in the days leading up to Microsoft Ignite. In order to give journalists (myself included) pre-access to some of the features Microsoft was planning to introduce on Tuesday morning, Redmond shipped a large, rigid flight case filled with computer hardware. This included a HoloLens 2 ($ 3,500), which is “unattached” and does not require a separate PC; an HP Reverb G2 VR headset ($ 600); and a 15-inch HP Omen laptop ($ 1,200 and up), which plugs in the Reverb headphones. The equipment overwhelmed my desk and I had to move some into the kitchen.

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