By: Trent Howe on 23-01-2015 in Future, Technology

With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift and Samsung’s recent release of Samsung VR, virtual reality is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing tech industries. Now Microsoft has joined the party with its new head-mounted holographic computer, HoloLens.

Microsoft HoloLens

As 2014 rolled over into 2015 thoughts of new year’s resolutions and self improvement didn’t dominate my thoughts like in previous years. Instead this year, I was thinking about all of the cool devices that the 1989 classic “Back to the Future II” predicted would be available by the year 2015. As my mind scrolled through the list: rehydrated pizzas – no, hoverboards – no, flying cars – not a chance. I was left with the sad thought that none of these fantastic inventions would come to fruition by the end of 2015… That was until 2 days ago.

No, I’m not talking about Nike innovation chief Tinkler Hatfield confirming that the US shoe giant is currently working on “Power Laces” – a self tying shoe that Marty McFly wears when he ventures to the future – I’m talking about Microsoft’s holographic computer, HoloLens; an augmented reality headset that was unveiled by Microsoft at their consumer event for Windows 10.

Back to the Future's version of HoloLens

Unlike other virtual reality headsets, HoloLens allows you to interact and manipulate holograms by introducing these holograms into your physical environment. Whereas, other virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift fully immerse your mind to create an entire virtual world blocked off from reality. Instead of trying to compete against other tech giants like Facebook and Samsung, Microsoft and Chief inventor Alex Kipman (the man behind Xbox Kinnect) have brought a fresh approach to VR, and with it, unlimited possibilities

Implications for the future

I still vividly remember the day when Facebook purchased Oculus Rift for $US2 billion and the terrifying thoughts that flooded my brain. Was Facebook going to turn the idea of “social media” into an even bigger ironic joke? Would we be interacting with each other in a creepy futuristic version of Habo Hotel or the Sims?

With Microsoft’s HoloLens, the possibilities that entered my mind were considerably more positive. By integrating virtual objects into our actual physical world, HoloLens presents us with the opportunity to improve our reality, rather than replace it.

My mind wanders when thinking of the implications of knowledge sharing and instant service from a qualified virtual professional via virtual reality. In 5-10 years time will I be spared the horror of having to read Ikea’s painfully vague instructions? Or will a polite virtual man walk me through how to put my new kitchen together?

I am not the only one who is giddy about the doors that this technology could open, it has been reported that NASA want to get their hands on these devices in order to assist their scientists, and help them to more effectively collaborate on missions. Microsoft have the chance to succeed where Google Glass couldn’t, building virtual technology that could have unlimited commercial applications and change the way we live our lives. But first, a little advice to Microsoft from Google Glass: consumer perceptions are hard to change, so a great first impression is everything.

When Can I Get One?

Unfortunately, the HoloLens is still a while away from becoming a commercial reality. Microsoft hope to get their new device into the hands of developers in time for the American springtime. But if, like me, you can’t wait to get a taste of HoloLens you can buy Google cardboard for a very reasonable price from all participating retail outlets.