Uh oh, Google, here comes Microsoft's HoloLens

Less than a week after Google said that it would stop selling prototypes of Glass, Microsoft announced its own computerized headset.

Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens

Less than a week after Google said that it would stop selling prototypes of its Glass wearable, Microsoft announced today that it's coming out with its own computerized headset.

During Microsoft's much-anticipated Windows 10 event, the company said it is working on a what CEO Satya Nadella said will be the world's first holographic computing platform. Dubbed HoloLens, the wearable enables the user to view high-definition holograms with surround sound and understand voice commands and hand gestures.

"It was a special moment this morning when we were able to share that Windows 10 is the world's first holographic computing platform -- complete with a set of APIs that enable developers to create holographic experiences in the real world," the company said in a blog post. "With Windows 10, holograms are Windows universal apps... making it possible to place three-dimensional holograms in the world around you to communicate, create and explore in a manner that is far more personal and human."

The device is scheduled to be released in the Windows 10 timeframe, according to Microsoft.

"My initial response was that they may have nailed it," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, who tried out HoloLens yesterday. "Google should be worried as Microsoft's approach is spot-on and Glass is coming off as a miserable failure."

The device, which looks like a pair of goggles or wrap-around sunglasses, has a transparent screen, allowing users to see the hologram in front of them while also seeing the real world. Gestures and voice commands can be used to create, bring up and size the holograms.

Using HoloStudio, a developer tool, users should be able to 3D print the objects they've created in their holograms.

Microsoft said NASA will be using HoloLens to take images sent back to Earth from the Mars rovers and view them as 3D holograms, helping them better explore the Red Planet. The wearables are intended to enable scientists to feel as if they are walking on the Martian surface.

"If successful, HoloLens will ultimately expand the way people interact with machines, just as the mouse-based interface did in the 1990s, and touch interfaces did after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey, in a statement. "HoloLens will expand the way brands interact with consumers forever more, working its way through industry after industry, much the way Web and mobile experiences did before it."

Of course, much of the exuberance is reminiscent of Google's Glass project, which created a prototype of computerized eyeglasses with a small display screen that sits in front of the user's right eye.

With Glass, which has been used by more than 10,000 early adopters, users were able to read their email and see maps. They also could take photos and videos that could be posted to Twitter or Facebook.

After initial positive attention, Google's device began to lose momentum, raised concerns over privacy and was banned from some businesses.

Google stopped selling its Glass prototypes this week and shut down its early adopter program.

Google said it's not canceling Glass, but is moving the project from the GoogleX research umbrella and placing it under the direction of its own team, much like the company's search and Android teams.

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