Fresh off of the successful demonstration of its second-generation HoloLens display in late February, Microsoft has been moving forward with plans to expand its line of access. One such development is the inclusion of HoloLens as an Android App, which is scheduled for release sometime in April 2019.
Having already sold 50,000 of the first generation of direct HoloLens devices, the second is releasing into a world better prepared for the opportunities it represents.
VR and MR
Virtual and mixed reality (also known as augmented reality) are related developments, though they operate with differing goals. The easiest way to understand this is to know that virtual reality intends to create an entirely digital world, and mixed reality aims to combine real-world and digital elements into one cohesive whole.
With VR users need an entire headset. This is what separates it from traditional first-person software, as it places the user within the made-up world with a much more involved and realistic perspective.
Mixed or augmented reality only needs to involve part of the world, and because of this, it can be adapted from entire headsets to smaller devices like mobile phones and tablets. This is why Microsoft has pushed HoloLens into the Android App store, as the HoloLens device itself is not strictly necessary for many applications.
What Can MR Accomplish?
Mixed reality offers an enormous range of possibilities, some of which have been realized, while others are being developed. These range from medical use to design, entertainment, and communication.
The use of MR in medicine is one of the most important, and will likely become standard within a few decades. MR would allow the real-time display of relevant scanning information back to medical professionals in a manner which could eliminate the need for bulkier monitoring equipment. This would allow for much greater efficiency, and could even work to point out potential areas of concern that the medical team might miss.
Design and Beauty
A constant concern of design, both in the personal and greater sense, is that it can be difficult to fully imagine the look of something when it only exists in an abstract sense. MR would allow architects and builders opportunities to see exactly what changes and designs would look like before they are made. This could help avoiding mistakes, and allow for customers to get exactly what they want before they reach the point of no return.
Entertainment and Communication
Probably the most widely used aspects of MR will come from entertainment and communication. Both of these will likely tie into the now growing popularity of live streaming.
Twitch, for example, has seen huge viewership growth in the last decade, with an over tenfold growth from 101,775 concurrent viewers in 2012 to 1,284,463 in February 2019. Advanced MR could be used to bring this level of streaming to a new level, effectively superimposing players into your own home.
Similar developments in streaming have already been seen in the world of online casinos. When players log into a live casino page, they can combine at-home play with human dealers connected through a live stream. This creates a much more realistic experience than what has been traditionally possible.
Skype already uses Windows Mixed Reality: with a HoloLens headset, workers can for example get help from a colleague as they draw instructions or diagrams in the world of the caller.
How Long will We Have to Wait?
It’s difficult to predict exactly when MR will become a permanent and unavoidable fixture in our lives, especially given the cost of devices like HoloLens. As the technology improves, however, the costs should fall significantly.
It might take another decade, but MR taking a spot of importance within our lives is just a matter of when and not a matter of if.