Microsoft has opened up its Holographic platform to third parties, it announced at Computex 2016 in June, enabling other manufacturers to build headsets just like its HoloLens and help it to expand the platform. A consumer HoloLens "may come from us, or it may come from a partner, and either way that's fantastic," said Microsoft's Terry Myerson, executive vice president of its Windows and Devices Group.
Microsoft reconfirmed this at CES in January 2017, telling HoloLens hopefuls that it is partnering with PC makers including Dell, Acer, HP, Lenovo and 3Glasses, which will release third-party headsets based on HoloLens technology over the coming months. These will be available much cheaper with prices starting at a more attractive $299, although unlike HoloLens they will need to be tethered to a PC.
“These new head mounted displays will be the first consumer offerings utilizing the Mixed Reality capabilities of Windows 10 Creators Update," said Microsoft.
At Microsoft's October 2016 event we got some more details on HoloLens, plus the cool Project X demo which you can see above which includes holograms which you can hold. The firm also announced the Surface Pro 4, Lumia 950 phones, Lumia 550, Band 2 and the surprise unveiling of the Surface Book.
Microsoft said: "Our vision for holographic computing is to transform the world with holograms – seamlessly connecting the digital world with real life. With the ability to design and shape holograms, you will have a new medium to express your creativity, a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more effective way to visualize your work and share ideas. This means your digital content and creations will be more relevant when they come to life in your world."
Microsoft HoloLens: UK release date and price
Although the HoloLens was announced over a year ago at a January 2016 event (we saw it again at E3 2015), but it was at Build 2016 Microsoft confirmed the Developer Edition would ship on 30 March 2016.
A Microsoft blog post earlier confirmed that the HoloLens Development Edition was due to start shipping on March 30 2016 for $3,000. Sales have now been opened up to business customers and developers in the US, with a maximum of five headsets per customer. Buy HoloLens here. See also: Surface Pro 4 hands-on review.
At Build 2016 Microsoft also revealed some exciting projects already in the works for HoloLens. For example, NASA will allow people to explore Mars, and medical students are able to get to grips with anatomy much faster.
HoloLens is now on sale to business customers and developers in the US and Canada, but at an incredible $3,000 per headset. It's not yet officially available in the UK, but if you can buy it elsewhere then you can buy it here.
One way to get hold of a HoloLens in the UK is to use a site like BigAppleBuddy.com. This site markets itself as 'Your shopping concierge for the latest tech products', and offers to buy and ship to you products sold in the US. You simply tell the site which product you want, and it emails you a quote within 24 hours. If you accept its charges then BigAppleBuddy will buy and ship to you that gadget you're after. BigAppleBuddy will look for best prices in the US, then add shipping costs and a flat $50 fee ($15 for each additional item).
Microsoft HoloLens: Specs, features and games
Despite the lack of availability information, we do know that Minecraft will be the first game to work with the HoloLens, following Microsoft's Xbox Media Briefing at E3 2015. Minecraft for HoloLens isn't a recreation of the Minecraft game. Instead of a first-person perspective, players get a god-like perspective that allows them to view other players from above, or dive down into the scenery to explore below the surface of the game world.
"Microsoft HoloLens introduces all new ways to game with mixed reality, including “Minecraft” on HoloLens, a fully-featured version of “Minecraft” that allows players to explore the game world in full 3-D," said the firm.
The demonstration at E3 2015 was similar to the one in January but the HoloLens headset mapped out the room including a table and chairs bringing them into the Minecraft world. At E3, Microsoft used a table-top to simulate the Minecraft environment (see the video below).
As you would expect, the HoloLens is compatible with Windows 10 and will come with three processors: CPU, GPU and HPU. The latter is the Holographic Processing Unit which will handle the data from sensors. In real-time it will recognise your gestures, know where you're looking and spatially map the world around you. It uses augmented reality rather than blocking out the world around you.
"The advanced sensors in HoloLens capture information about what you’re doing and the environment you’re in," Todd Holmdahl explained on the Lumia Conversations blog. "This is done through the inertial measurement unit (IMU) which includes an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. It’s this IMU, coupled with head tracking cameras, which enables HoloLens to understand where your head is and how it’s moving."
The HoloLens has spatial sound so you can hear holograms even when they're behind you. It doesn't have a surround sound system so instead synthesizes a binaural sound which simply tricks your ears and brain.
Microsoft said there is a microphone array to capture your voice commands, a depth sensor that is used to spatially map your environment and interpret your hand gestures and a camera so you can share what you're doing with others.
Below you can check out the full HoloLens specs which Windows Central posted using AIDA64, including the processor, storage and RAM.
• OS - Windows 10.0.11802.1033 32-bit
• CPU - Intel Atom x5-Z8100 1.04GHz, Intel Airmont (14nm), 4 Logical Processors, 64-bit
• GPU/HPU - HoloLens Graphics
• GPU Vendor ID - 8086h (Intel)
• Dedicated video memory - 114MB
• Shared system memory - 980MB
• RAM – 2GB
• Storage - 64GB (54.09 GB available)
• App memory usage limit – 900MB
• Battery - 16,500mWh
• Camera photos - 2.4Mp (2048x1152)
• Camera video - 1.1Mp (1408x792)
• Video speed – 30fps