There’s been a recent push towards virtual-reality with our computing technology these days, starting as long ago as 2011, though VR is by no means new. We’ve been flirting with the technology back the late 80’s, however back then the technology for it was very crude. The VR headsets were huge, heavy, cumbersome things that overheated very quickly, and the primitive graphics often resulted in motion-sickness and eye strain. With advances in the quality of our cameras, motion sensing, and HD imagery, however, suddenly the technology is a lot more feasible. Within the last five years, we’ve seen increasing movements towards feasible VR technology for public use in the home, notably the Oculus Rift and Google Glass, with varying levels of success.
Very recently, Microsoft has entered the fray with their new HoloLens product, promising to change the way we interact with computers.
A Blending of Worlds
One of the principal ways that the HoloLens will change the way we use computers is by making the technology even more mobile and unobtrusive. Laptops are very clunky things, even now that they are wafer thin and come with detachable magnetic monitors, they are not suited to use while out on the street. Smartphones, meanwhile, create the tendency towards tunnel vision. The user often spends more time trying to gaze at a screen that’s only several inches square while completely oblivious to the things around them. Ultimately they form a strange sort of block between you, your online life and your corporeal life.
Microsoft Holographic attempts to rectify the issue by allowing someone to access apps and programs without isolating them from the world they are in. One of the things Microsoft emphasizes is trying to “break through” the screen, and remove the sense of distance between you and your computer. You are no longer staring at a screen – the programs augment the reality around you and interact with your surroundings. The computer and the applications it runs become a living part of your world, blending the digital and the physical together as seamlessly as possible.
For example, a Skype call through the HoloLens overlays the usual Skype UI over the surrounding environment, usually as a floating translucent series of menus and boxes. The person you are chatting to manifests as a floating head that sits just off to the side of your main field of vision. Meanwhile an application such as Google Maps might display a 3D map image of a given location on a flat surface, such as a table or a wall, which allows you to interact with it much as you would a physical map made of paper. This enables you to interact with the program without at the same time cutting yourself from the outside world, something that is often a problem when attempting to use a smartphone or tablet. You can proceed to do what you wish digitally without having to stop or interrupt what you are doing physically.
As a Virtual Assistant
Another way that, Microsoft HoloLens can alter the way we look at computers is by thinking of them as an aide to specific tasks. Unlike Google Glass, which was made with the intention of being worn near-consistently during your day to day life, Microsoft presents their product as something you slip on for specific tasks. We already use computers to assist us with our day to day lives, but the use of the computer is always somewhat detached from our tasks. There’s always a separation between looking at the computer screen (or smartphone screen), and focusing on the actual task at hand. Microsoft Holographic, however, attempts to blend the two together.
A user may slip on the ‘Lens when attempting to fix a broken down kitchen appliance, and use it to access in real-time videos and how-to guides that can help them how to fix it. They may even be able to utilise specially-made apps that can use holograms and augmented reality to assist in its repair. In this way, the HoloLens more seamlessly integrates computers and information technology into our day to day lives.
The Future of Digital Interaction
What the HoloLens promises, at the end of the day, is a new way of looking at how computers work and fit into a daily routine. It breaks down the usual interfaces, such as the keyboard and the mouse, and implements instead more natural methods of interaction. You gesture and point rather than click; you speak aloud rather than type. Consequently, the use of the PC becomes a more natural extension of how you’d usually manipulate analogue objects.
While it’s impossible to say for certain how successful Microsoft Holographic will be, as technologies like these can be very hit and miss in the terms of how much they enter into our lives, it does represent a very intriguing step with regards to how we approach information technology. There’s a growing desire for PCs and communication technology that’s more integrated into what we do from day to day, able to be used without breaking the flow of life.
It is entirely possible that the HoloLens will wind up as just a brief fad, a neat technological toy that rises and sputters out like a dud firework. However, what is certain is that it is the mark of a new rung in information technology. HoloLens promises to change the way we use computers. While we may not do so with the ‘Lens itself, it certainly seems set on making good on that promise.
For those who still use faxes for instance, he highly recommends finding an online fax service, and making comparisons of these services through sites like FindAFax.com.