While pundits breathlessly proclaim that virtual reality is the future, the company that could lead consumers to that technologically immersive future is from the past: Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft, brainchild of Bill Gates. Remember him?
Although the tech giant has in the past avoided discussing any future goals it might have had for VR, the company’s plans for its augmented reality (AR) headset, the HoloLens, are going to change that.
The HoloLens can collaborate with an updated version of Microsoft Paint to allow for 3D drawing. It can also assist customers in online shopping through its use of mixed reality technology, such as by helping someone buying furniture project a hologram in their house to see how it would look before buying it. It even has holographic apps like HoloTour, which allow users to simulate the experience of visiting different cities in a totally immersive experience.
During a presentation discussing the HoloLens on Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called on creative individuals of all backgrounds to rally behind their new product. “We want the artists, the musicians, the architects, the students, the gamers, the builders, the makers — everyone who creates, all of us — to help bring this mixed-reality medium to life,” Nadella said.
If nothing else, the HoloLens is going to put Apple — which has its own VR plans — on the spot. Whereas Apple is focused on augmented reality, Microsoft is preferring a mixed reality approach. Apple CEO Tim Cook went on the record earlier this month declaring, “AR I think is going to become really big. VR, I think, is not gonna be that big, compared to AR …; How long will it take? AR gonna take a little while, because there’s some really hard technology challenges there. But it will happen. It will happen in a big way. And we will wonder, when it does [happen], how we lived without it. Kind of how we wonder how we lived without our [smartphones] today.”
As Chris Taylor from Mashable put it, “[Cook] clearly believes we’ll use something like the HoloLens in the near future. Only it’s starting to look like Microsoft is walking the walk, and Apple is just talking the talk.”