Get­ting in your face

Mi­crosoft and Sam­sung are pitch­ing holo­grams and vir­tual re­al­ity eye­wear at con­sumers and the fight has only just be­gun, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley-Ni­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - GADGETS -

The race for space on your face will get se­ri­ous this year.

Google has bailed out of the smart­glasses battle for now, but a new fight is emerg­ing be­tween the likes of Mi­crosoft and Sam­sung, as well as new­com­ers like Ocu­lus and Ep­son.

Con­sumers will not only be asked to choose a com­pany, but a tech­nol­ogy, as vir­tual re­al­ity faces off against aug­mented re­al­ity.

Mi­crosoft started the new­est tech­no­log­i­cal skir­mish at its Win­dows 10 event when it re­vealed a project it had se­cretly de­vel­oped be­low the vis­i­tors’ cen­tre on its Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton, cam­pus.

The HoloLens pro­to­type looks like an over­sized, fu­tur­is­tic pair of sun­glasses.

It fea­tures trans­par­ent lenses, “ad­vanced sen­sors”, speak­ers to de­liver sur­round sound, and two pro­ces­sors.

Mi­crosoft de­scribed HoloLens as the world’s first “un­teth­ered holo­graphic com­puter” as it re­quires nei­ther wires, nor a con­nec­tion to a com­puter or smart­phone.

Mi­crosoft chief ex­ec­u­tive Satya Nadella says the de­vice will de­liver “mind-blow­ing ex­pe­ri­ences”.

In a demon­stra­tion, a wearer cre­ated a three-di­men­sional drone only she could see in the spec­ta­cles, with the ob­ject ap­pear­ing to form and re­main suspended in midair.

HoloLens cre­ations fall short of the dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of holo­grams, be­ing “a three-di­men­sional im­age formed by the in­ter­fer­ence of light beams from a laser or other co­her­ent light source,” but they fit the def­i­ni­tion of aug­mented re­al­ity in which ar­ti­fi­cial images ap­pear over those from real life. Aug­mented re­al­ity has pre­vi­ously been used by gam­ing com­pa­nies Nin­tendo and Sony to de­liver an­i­ma­tions that ap­pear to come from real-world ob­jects like play­ing cards, and in apps such as Google Sky Map and Star Map that draw con­stel­la­tions over re­al­world images as you point your phone at the sky.

But in in­tro­duc­ing HoloLens, its in­ven­tor Alex Kip­man en­sured the aug­mented re­al­ity project was not con­fused with its vir­tual re­al­ity brethren.

“We’re not talk­ing about putting you into vir­tual worlds,” says Mr Kip­man.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m re­ally ex­cited about all of the progress be­ing made in vir­tual re­al­ity, but vir­tual re­al­ity may

not be for ev­ery­one. We’re dreaming be­yond vir­tual worlds, be­yond screens, be­yond pix­els and be­yond to­day’s dig­i­tal bor­ders. We’re dreaming about holo­grams mixed into your world.”

The HoloLens will de­but “in the Win­dows 10 time frame,” he says, ex­pected to be late this year. But Sam­sung will launch its head­gear soon, with its Gear VR vir­tual re­al­ity head­set primed to ar­rive in Aus­tralian stores this month.

The head­set, priced at $249, will use the Sam­sung Galaxy Note 4 as a screen, with users in­stalling the phone into the front of the head­set be­fore slip­ping it over their head.

The vir­tual re­al­ity gog­gles, cre­ated with Ocu­lus, de­liver 360-de­gree videos, with wear­ers able to turn their heads to see footage be­hind them.

Ba­sic video games have also been cre­ated for the Gear VR.

Ocu­lus re­cently de­buted its first vir­tual re­al­ity movie, Lost, at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val. Five more VR films are in the works from its Story Stu­dio.

The com­pany’s first com­mer­cially avail­able head­set is due to launch this year.

“We’re dreaming be­yond vir­tual worlds ... be­yond to­day’s dig­i­tal

bor­ders”

HOLOLENS IN­VEN­TOR

ALEX KIP­MAN

Mi­crosoft’s HoloLens aug­mented re­al­ity glasses.

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