For developers looking to create software for Microsoft's HoloLens headset, the future is now. At its Build conference in San Francisco today (March 30), Microsoft says its augmented reality headset and holographic computer is shipping out to developers and enterprise partners.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," said Alex Kipman, a Microsoft technical fellow who's headed up the HoloLens project.
For consumers, the wait for HoloLens is going to continue, but Microsoft showed off plenty of potential uses for its headset during today's Build keynote. Pamela Davis, the dean of Case Western University's school of medicine, showed how HoloLens will be used in a futuristic classroom the school is developing where Microsoft's headset figures heavily into the curriculum.
A pair of students were able to look at a holographic brain, as a virtual instructor gave them details about a nasty-looking tumor and how it might impact different lobes. Davis said the students are not only able to better visualize organs, but being untethered and free to roam around a classroom gives them an advantage over traditional lectures.
NASA also showed off a Destination: Mars app that offers the same view of the red plannet that NASA scientists enjoy. Destination: Mars is being made available to developers here at Build, as a solar system app called Galaxy Explorer.
Microsoft hopes that making these apps — and in the case of Galaxy Explorer, the source code — available will inspire app makers to develop HoloLens offerings of their own.
"[Today's] another great step on our journey of interacting with our computers in new ways," Kipman said.
Microsoft did tease one HoloLens app that should be of interest to consumers — a version of Skype that runs on Microsoft's headset. Details about the app were scarce, but a teaser video should a HoloLens-wearing woman able to have video chats that appeared in a window in front of her; in another portion of the video, the woman placed a Skype call to help with troubleshooting a malfunctioning electrical socket. It may not be the equivalent of floating a giant holographic brain in front of you, but it did show off HoloLens's more practical side for everyday users.
Microsoft began taking preorders for the developer edition of HoloLens last month. The headset costs $3,000 and you'll have to be part of the Windows Insider program in the U.S. or Canada to take part.