Microsoft announces HoloLens, an augmented reality ‘hologram’ headset, for Windows 10

The next step in Windows technology is called Microsoft HoloLens — an augmented reality headset that uses holograms — operating system group technical fellow Alex Kipman announced today.

HoloLens is not quite Microsoft’s version of the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus, but something different: a set of augmented reality goggles designed to work with applications like Skype as well as games like Minecraft.

Kipman unveiled the HoloLens, “the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen,” onstage. The HoloLens uses see-through lenses, spatial sound to hear behind you and advanced sensors. It includes built-in high-end CPU and GPU and a third processor, a holographic processing unit. Holograms are universal apps and all universal apps can be made to work with Windows holographic, Kipman added. The headset is untethered does not include wires or require a connection to a phone or PC. Windows 10 includes a set of APIs devs can use to create holographic experiences.

“Imagine turning your living room into a surreal gaming environment,” he said.

Demonstrating more than virtual reality, a video shown during the presentation overlapped images with the real world; the clip included shots from the wildly popular game Minecraft. According to Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella, the game is playable for those in attendance today. During an on-stage presentation, users demonstrated how holograms could be manipulated with gestures. The presentation also included a look at a tiny, holographic Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems.

Microsoft HoloLens / HoloStudio demo (Poly wm) 1280

“We’ve worked on this program for years,” Kipman said. “…Oculus, Magic Leap, Google Glass developers, we humbly invite you, come develop software with us.”

Microsoft’s Kudo Tsunoda, who headed development of Kinect for Xbox 360, is also working on HoloLens.

Wired reports that the holographic goggles began as a pitch seven years ago to Microsoft that eventually became the Kinect. The publication also played a game demo in which a character leaps around a real room collecting coins.

Last year, an allegedly leaked internal Microsoft document suggested the company was working on eyewear similar to Google Glass. The glasses were dubbed “Fortaleza Glasses” and supposedly would work with Xbox One and Kinect for augmented reality-style games.

For more on today’s announcements, check out our StoryStream.