Microsoft Offers $100K for Academia's Best HoloLens Ideas

The company is awarding $100,000 and development kits to schools that can find research applications for the buzz-worthy augmented-reality headset.

Microsoft HoloLens

HoloLens is going to school.

Microsoft is kicking off an academic research request for proposals (RFP) for its Windows 10-powered augmented-reality headset, Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, said in a June 6 announcement. "The Microsoft HoloLens Academic RFP will award US$100,000 and two HoloLens development kits to academic institutions," she added.

"This emerging technology teems with opportunity, so we've issued this RFP to inspire the academic community to investigate the potential roles and applications for holographic computing in society," Wing stated. The software giant expects to dole out five $100,000 awards as unrestricted gifts, each with two HoloLens development kits.

The RFP is open to accredited non-profit, degree-granting universities or non-profit research labs in the United States. The application deadline is Sept. 5.

"We expect that researchers will envision novel ways of using HoloLens—from interactively teaching students, to creating mixed-realty art installations, to manipulating holographic data to reveal new relationships … to who knows what," stated Wing.

One early HoloLens collaboration with scientific applications in space hit a snag recently.

On June 28, two HoloLens headsets were set to take off on a SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station. HoloLens never made it after the unmanned Falcon 9 rocket exploded minutes after takeoff from Cape Canaveral. Following the accident, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, tweeted, "Space is hard... @NASA we're with you and ready to try again!"

Back on Earth, Microsoft is looking to schools for ways of bringing the buzz-worthy technology to other fields.

"We welcome research that uses HoloLens to help solve difficult problems and contribute new insights in any domain—data visualization; pedagogy in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], medical and design education; communication and distributed collaboration; interactive art and experimental media; and psychology-related applications, including human-computer interactions," Wing said.

On July 8, Microsoft Research will host a Faculty Summit webcast showcasing some of the ways early units are being used. Although Microsoft has yet to announce its commercial availability, HoloLens is already aiding various industries, including architecture and construction, according to the company.

Microsoft also hopes HoloLens makes a splash in the video game industry. At this year's E3 conference, the company demonstrated a HoloLens version of its popular Minecraft game, wowing attendees with novel ways to experience and interact with the sandbox game's world. Microsoft acquired the game's developer, Mojang, for $2.5 billion in September 2014.

Early demos also showed how the device can provide guided instruction via Skype and deliver immersive virtual 3D design tools that respond to a user's gestures and voice commands. "It has been exciting to see the public response to HoloLens—the world's first fully untethered holographic computer, powered by Windows 10," Wing stated. "There's been palpable excitement at the prospect of mixing holograms with the real world to unlock all-new ways to create, communicate, work and play."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...