Microsoft’s HoloLens Development Edition augmented reality headset has been shipping to American and Canadian customers since late March. Soon, developers from other select areas of the world will be able to take the technology for a spin, the company announced Oct. 12.
Interested developers in Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom can now preorder the $3,000 (USD) device with a ship date in late November. “In welcoming these six new countries, October 12, 2016 marks another major milestone for us,” wrote Alex Kipman, a Microsoft Windows and Devices Group technical fellow, in a blog post. “Each of these moments bring us closer to a more personal way of interacting with technology.”
Microsoft first unveiled HoloLens in January 2015, billing the device as a “self-contained holographic computer.” Unlike the vast majority of augmented and virtual reality headsets vying for the attention of today’s consumers and technology buyers, the Windows 10-powered headset doesn’t require users to be tethered to a PC (or a video game console in the PlayStation VR’s case) or encase their smartphones in a visor.
Using a custom holographic processor, along with an Intel chip and an array of sensors, HoloLens can project 2D and 3D images onto the wearer’s environment, creating interactive mixed-reality experiences. For instance, the Skype app for HoloLens can be used to conduct video calls in which participants can help guide repairs or assist in other tasks, complete with hand-drawn annotations that appear in the user’s environment.
So far, developers have published more than 80 HoloLens apps to the Windows Store. To explore the hardware’s viability in the enterprise, Microsoft has been collaborating with design software maker Autodesk, Volvo and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among other commercial partners. In August, Microsoft launched the HoloLens Commercial Suite, a $5,000 bundle that includes the Development Edition hardware along with business-focused features like Azure Active Directory support, Windows Store for Business and a kiosk mode.
According to a recent forecast from IDC, businesses will help push the market for augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) products to staggering new heights over the next few years.
The analyst group predicts that the AR/VR market will reach $162 billion in 2020 from just $5.2 billion this year. Consumers looking to explore virtual worlds will undoubtedly fuel demand, but enterprises are also expected to turn to AR/VR technologies to boost productivity and improve collaboration.
“The rise of new, less expensive hardware will put virtual and augmented reality technology within the grasp of a growing number of companies and individuals. But, as always, what people can do with that hardware will depend upon the applications and services that power it,” said IDC Vice President Tom Mainelli in a statement.
“In the coming years, we expect developers to create a wide range of new experiences for these devices that will fundamentally change the way many of us do work,” he said.