All hands on (holo)deck! 2015 is ramping up to be the year of Augmented Reality (AR). Microsoft threw their hat into the ring today announcing HoloLens, their AR headset lead by Kinect inventor Alex Kipman. Remember “Fortaleza” the AR glasses we had a peek at in the leaked Xbox 720 document in 2012? Say hello to the HoloLens prototype in 2015.
The community has been quick to point out the similarities between existing AR eyewear like Meta’s SpaceGlasses
, but how is HoloLens different?
HoloLens appears to use a Virtual Retinal Display (VRD).
So, what’s VRD, you ask?
VRD mirrors how the human eye works. The back of the eye receives light and converts it into signals for your brain. Images are projected directly onto the retina with the back of the eye used as a screen effectively.
The result is a more true-to-life image than the ‘ghostly transparent superimposed representation’ (as Gizmodo reporter Sean Hollister describes) we’ve seen with AR eyewear before. Hollister details
his experience of Microsoft’s prototype as “standing in a room filled
with objects. Posters covering the walls. And yet somehow—without blocking my vision—the HoloLens was making those objects almost totally invisible.” He states, “Some of the very shiniest things in the room—the silver handle of a pitcher, if I recall correctly—managed to reflect enough light into my eyes to penetrate the illusion.”
In an exclusive interview with Wired’s Jessi Hempel, HoloLens’s inventor Kipman hints at VRD with his description of how HoloLens works by tricking the human brain into seeing light as matter.
“Ultimately, you know, you perceive the world because of light,” Kipman explains. “If I could magically turn the debugger on, we’d see photons bouncing throughout this world. Eventually they hit the back of your eyes, and through that, you reason about what the world is. You essentially hallucinate the world, or you see what your mind wants you to see.”
I personally can’t wait to see what my mind wants me to see, particularly in this second wave of AR. For me, AR is about extending human capacity and the human imagination, not supplanting it. I’ve been working with AR for a decade now and it’s tremendously exciting to see this all quickly becoming a reality. We have a whole new medium waiting to be defined.
Microsoft’s HoloLens is currently a prototype with no price or release date announced, and we’ve yet to see what Magic Leap will unleash into the world, but I can promise you this: AR is coming in hot and fast. We WILL experience the world in unprecedented ways. Reality has changed. Read more about the next wave of AR in my upcoming book. And as always, let’s continue the conversation on Twitter: I’m @ARstories.