The first HoloLens headsets, Microsoft's entry into the burgeoning virtual- and augmented-reality market, will start shipping in about a month, along with related Visual Studio projects and a HoloLens emulator, announced the software giant today.
"I'm thrilled to announce that starting today, developer applicants will start receiving invitations to purchase the Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition—which will begin shipping on March 30th," Alex Kipman, a technical fellow in Microsoft's Operating System Group, wrote in a company blog post. Initial shipments will be limited to the U.S. and Canada. As announced in Microsoft's hardware event in October, the hardware costs $3,000.
HoloLens Development Edition's high price tag suggests that consumer adoption is not a priority for Microsoft, at least not at this early stage. By comparison, when HTC unveiled its Vive VR at Mobile World Congress last week, the company announced the headset would sell for $799 when it ships later this year.
HoloLens is completely self-contained and doesn't require a companion PC or device to operate, reminded Kipman.
Competing virtual-reality platforms require a connection to a separate computing device. Samsung Gear VR, for instance, requires that users insert their Galaxy smartphones into the unit. "It's the only device that enables holographic computing natively with no markers, no external cameras, no wires, no phone required, and no connection to a PC needed," Kipman said. "And it's a Windows 10 device—the interface is familiar, and connected by the power of a unified ecosystem of Windows devices."
Instead of creating completely immersive experiences, HoloLens projects 3D "holograms" over the real world.
"HoloLens has see-through holographic lenses that use an advanced optical projection system to generate multi-dimensional full-color holograms with very low latency so you can see holographic objects in your world," Kipman added. "The key to a great holographic experience is holograms that are light point rich, i.e., they have a high holographic density and are pinned, or anchored, to the world around you."
Some of the earliest HoloLens experiences include Skype, said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Kudo Tsunoda.
"Skype on HoloLens allows people running Skype on any Windows device to interact in the holographic world. This application will show how holograms can be used for remote collaboration and training in a way previously impossible," he wrote in a separate blog post.
An early tool, called HoloStudio, helps developers create interactive, 3D experiences. "It's the first program of its kind, allowing people to easily create 3D in 3D—at real-world scale. We are hopeful that this application will easily allow any developer to envision and create the holograms they need for their own applications, Tsunoda added.
Finally, a trio of games offers a taste of HoloLens' entertainment possibilities.
Fragments is a mixed-reality crime drama that allows gamers to pick through clues and solve crimes in their own environments. Young Conker creates a platforming adventure game layered onto a room's furnishings. RoboRaid, formerly Project X-Ray, calls for users to fend off waves of robotic attackers.