Microsoft ‘Absolutely’ Working On Consumer HoloLens – ‘It’s A Very Important Part Of Our Strategy’

Microsoft reconfirmed it is “absolutely” working on a “consumer journey” for its HoloLens AR headset, even if that’s some ways off.

Speaking to Wall Street Journal, Technical Fellow Alex Kipman touched on the future of the platform. “But you don’t get to lead a new medium of computing if you’re not going to be in consumer,” Kipman said. “So we are absolutely working on a consumer journey for HoloLens. I’m happy to confirm that and say that is a very important part of our strategy.”

Consumer HoloLens Coming

Kipman didn’t give any kind of roadmap for an eventual launch of a consumer HoloLens, but it’s likely not going to happen for a while. The HoloLens 2, which we reviewed earlier this year, is an excellent but expensive ($3,500) AR headset with a lot of features that don’t quite measure up to consumer expectations. Improving these features whilst also bringing the kit’s price down is a challenge not just Microsoft but every hopeful AR competitor faces in the coming years.

Magic Leap learned the hard way when it pivoted its AR glasses away from consumer and towards enterprise, while rumors and speculation around Apple’s AR headset have persisted for years, most recently suggesting it might not arrive until 2025. Even HoloLens itself was first introduced with AR videogames and entertainment apps before Microsoft truly positioned it towards businesses.

As for HoloLens 3, Kipman also assured Microsoft was working on it and that it had to be “another huge leap forward”. Again, no word on when we might see that device.

Would you buy a consumer HoloLens headset? Let us know in the comments below!

Microsoft Ignite To Host Immersive ‘Mixed Reality Keynote’ Next Week

Microsoft will host a “mixed reality keynote” at its Ignite digital conference next week.

Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow and HoloLens/Mixed Reality figurehead at the company confirmed as much on Twitter this week. In a video clip, Kipman promised an immersive keynote “the likes of which you have not experienced before”. Those joining inside a Mixed Reality headset will apparently experience “more immersion than you’ve ever seen before.” Now there’s a promise.

You’ll still be able to watch the conference via livestream if you don’t have a headset, though.

Microsoft labels both HoloLens and the PC VR headsets it produces with partners like HP and Dell as ‘Mixed Reality’. It’s not clear exactly which category Kipman is referring to here but he likely means that PC VR fans with an HP Reverb G2 or older device can watch the stream. It doesn’t appear that Oculus Rift, Quest, HTC Vive and Valve Index owners will be able to watch in VR based on this branding, but we’ve asked Microsoft.

You can register to attend Ignite here, though there aren’t details on how to attend in VR just yet. Kipman is confirmed to be speaking at the Day 1 Keynote, which kicks off at 8:30am PT on March 2nd. There’s no details yet on exactly what he’ll be talking about but, given his role within the HoloLens and Mixed Reality teams, we’re hoping for some new reveals.

That said, Ignite is a largely business-focused conference, so don’t hold your breath for any big consumer-facing news. Either way, we’ll bring you all the latest on UploadVR.

Windows MR Figurehead Alex Kipman To Speak At Microsoft Ignite Conference

Microsoft’s Ignite conference is just around the corner, and the company’s Mixed Reality figurehead, Alex Kipman, will be speaking at the event.

Ignite 2021 takes place from March 2nd – 4th, with a keynote speech opening up the first day. It’s the second year that the show has gone online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A list of speakers confirms that Kipman will speak alongside the likes of CEO Satya Nadella. Exactly what Kipman will be speaking on hasn’t been revealed.

We’ll definitely be interested to see what updates Microsoft has on the Mixed Reality side. The HoloLens 2 AR headset is now two years old and remains one of the only high-end devices of its kind on the market. A focus on enterprise gave it a head start over its rival, the Magic Leap One, and it’s still readily available. Earlier this month the company even launched a new Industrial Edition of the device.

2020 also saw Microsoft return to what we’d thought was its forgotten VR ‘Mixed Reality’ platform on Windows 10. HP once again adopted the platform for its second PC VR headset, the HP Reverb G2 (review here), which was also made in collaboration with Valve. It would certainly be interesting to see if Microsoft has plans for the future of that platform again.

With all that said, don’t forget that Ignite is Microsoft’s chance to talk about updates to Windows and other services; don’t expect many gaming and entertainment-focused announcements. We wouldn’t hold our breath for an Xbox VR headset to be announced at the show, for example.

Schedule For Microsoft’s Virtual Mixed Reality Dev Days Revealed

Microsoft revealed the full schedule for their upcoming Mixed Reality Dev Days, which is set to take place virtually in Altspace VR on Thursday and Friday.

Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Dev Days were originally going to be hosted in Seattle this month, but with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been moved online and will take place in VR, using Altspace.

As previously reported, the event will begin with a keynote speech from Alex Kipman, a Technical Fellow at Microsoft, working on mixed reality, AI and the HoloLens AR headsets. Including the keynote, there are an 21 events scheduled across Thursday and Friday with a variety of speakers from Microsoft and other companies.

Here are some notable events as listed in the full schedule:

  • Intro to Azure Mixed Reality Services: Azure Remote Rendering: Azure Remote Rendering just entered public preview. Learn how you can use ARR to render interactive 3D models with hundreds of millions of polygons and stream them to devices like HoloLens 2 in real-time.
  • Getting started with the HoloLens 2 and Unity: Learn the basics of setting up Unity and building for the HoloLens 2. This presentation will cover best practices, basic features of the HoloLens 2 and how to quickly add hand tracking support and interactivity with native Unity API’s
  • Fireside Chat with Alex Kipman and René Schulte: Chat about topics the community is interested in. René has been gathering questions from the community for about a week, and we anticipate it’s going to be a great conversation.

These are only a small slice of the various sessions on offer. You can check out the full schedule here. All of the events are free to attend but require registration ahead of time.

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Microsoft Mixed Reality Dev Days Names Keynote For AltSpace VR Event

Microsoft announced more details and plans for their Mixed Reality Dev Days, which will now take place fully online in AltSpaceVR. The event will take place on May 21-22, however due to COVID-19, the event will be conducted from within VR instead of in person in Seattle, as was originally planned.

The Mixed Reality Dev Days were originally announced in February, with a plan to host two days in the US in Seattle and two later dates for international developers hosted in Germany and Japan later in the year. However, the ongoing pandemic makes it seem unlikely that the planned international events will go forward at all this year. That being said, the new virtual event in AltSpace will mean that more users are able to join virtually than what would be possible with a physical event. Therefore, Microsoft made registration open to anyone and available now for free.

Microsoft also announced that the virtual keynote presentation that kicks off the two-day event will be hosted by Alex Kipman, a Technical Fellow working on Mixed Reality and AI. Kipman is also known for his work on the enterprise AR headset HoloLens. We tried out the HoloLens 2 at MWC in February 2019, before it began shipping later that year in November.

Microsoft is requesting that anyone who is interested register online beforehand to ensure they receive more information before the event, including the forthcoming full schedule and lineup.

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Microsoft To Host US And International Mixed Reality Dev Days

Microsoft announced that it will be hosting two Mixed Reality Dev Days in Redmond, Washington May 16 and 17, in addition to some international dev days held in Japan and Germany at some point during the year.

The Mixed Reality Dev Days will be held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond for the second year running. The 2019 Mixed Reality Dev Days ran a bit earlier in May at the same location last year.

One notable similarity to last year is that this year’s Mixed Reality Dev Day sessions run just a few days before Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference, which is focused on developers of any kind, not just those involved in VR and AR.

However, for those not in the US, Microsoft will also host international Mixed Reality Dev Day tours in Germany and Japan this year – however, dates have not been announced yet, as locations and venues are still being finalized.

Mixed Reality is the term used by Microsoft to cover everything from the HoloLens 2 AR headset to their PC VR headsets that are produced in conjunction with third-party partners like HP or Samsung. At the Dev Days events, there will likely be an opportunity for developers to get hands-on with hardware like the HoloLens, while also providing Microsoft with feedback on their experience developing for Mixed Reality platforms.

First introduced at the Mobile World Congress last year, Microsoft’s biggest Mixed Reality product, the HoloLens 2, is an enterprise-focused AR headset that started shipping late last year. You can read our impressions of the headset from MWC last year.

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Middle School Students Can Now Learn About Microgravity Through VR

A new Microsoft Garage project, Microgravity Lab, presents teachers with a new and interactive way to teach middle school students about complex physics concepts in microgravity.

The experience will allow students to explore physics principles, including conservation of momentum and Newton’s 3nd and 3rd law, through the context of microgravity on the moon. Microgravity is a concept that is hard to explain and simulate on earth, and therefore easier to teach through a platform like VR.

The Microgravity Lab was developed by a Microsoft intern team in Vancouver, in collaboration with NASA. It simulates the conditions experienced by astronauts while in space, making it easier for students to understand these complex physics concepts.

“The concept of microgravity is often misunderstood by students who learn about astronauts on the International Space Station,” said Matthew E. Wallace, an education specialist for NASA. “Providing a virtual reality world for them to explore the phenomena of life on orbit is an excellent way to engage students and solidify their comprehension of concepts related to force, mass and gravitational acceleration.”

The experience is part of a wider collaboration between NASA and Microsoft that features to a collection of middle school lesson plans.

Teachers that are interested in using the Microgravity Lab in their classroom can request an invite through Microsoft. There’s also an extensive lesson plan that goes along with the experience, which takes place across four, 50-minute classes.

You can read more about the development of the experience in this Microsoft Garage blog post.

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Microsoft Files Patent For VR Text Input System

There are always obstacles to overcome when trying to create a system for typing text when the user doesn’t have access to a proper keyboard. In virtual reality (VR), this becomes more complex, as users are unable to see the outside world, so a keyboard becomes unusable even if one is available. Microsoft has been awarded a patent that has the potential to overcome this problem.

The patent is for a VR text input system that could be a better way to write long or complex text in VR when using tracked motion controllers or Xbox gamepads. This is done by using a radial design with layered inputs and predictive text.

HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition

QWERTY keyboards are still the most popular keyboard type among western users, and despite being shown to not be the most accurate or intuitive, it has the advantage of familiarity, allowing users to create a lot of text very quickly. Microsoft are hoping to devise a system that offers similar levels of speed and accuracy within VR.

The new patents uses a wheel interface, similar to the existing Surface Dial, and could prove to be an easier way for VR and videogame console users to input text quickly, compared to existing systems of floating keyboards.

The patent notes that the QWERTY layout is designed for a full ten-finger input, making it a poor fit for single-cursor systems currently on offers. The typing wheel is said to be suitable for use in VR as well as mixed reality (MR) and any area where game controllers are the most common method of input.

As with any patent, there is no guarantee that Microsoft will ever create a product that uses the system specified in the patent. The patent was originally filed in March 2018, so it is still possible that Microsoft have been working on the system since the filing.

For future coverage of new developments in VR, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Luminous Group Signs On As Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner

Luminous Group was originally founded at Digital Surveys some 30 years ago, and in recent years have radically changed focus to work in the area of 3D mapping, along with virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) for a range of industries, rebranding to reflect this new direction. The company has now been accredited as a Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner.

Microsoft created the Mixed Reality Partner Program to ensure customers have a broad range f partners to work with, while being assured that these partners have the capability to support products involved with HoloLens and other MR technologies.

Ben Bennett, managing director and founder of Luminous Group said: “Mixed reality has enormous growth potential in a wide range of commercial environments. We’re really excited to be at the forefront of it and working in partnership with Microsoft gives us the edge in helping realise that potential. The Microsoft partnership program is the greatest validation that we’re pushing our business in the right direction and in partnership with Microsoft we can start to push even more boundaries of possibility.”

Luminous Group have previously been involved with a number of VR, AR and MR projects, including working with PepsiCo to produce MR solutions to enhance workflows. Recently, Luminous have also worked on the RIVO platform, which uses the HoloLens combined with Luminous Group’s 3D mapping technology to create accurate location information in real time, by tagging 3D objects in real-world locations.

Leila Martine, Product Director of Commercial Mixed Reality at Microsoft said, “We are delighted to have Luminous accredited as a Mixed Reality Partner. We are impressed with the Group’s vision for its RIVO platform, which we believe has ground-breaking and disruptive potential by providing mixed reality asset mapping tools across a variety of industries.”

Further information on Luminous Group can be found on the company website. For future coverage on developments in mixed reality, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Digital Surgery Designated As A Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner

Digital Surgery, a health technology company working to reshape the future of surgery, has announced that its designation as an official Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner (MMRP). This exciting partnership will allow Digital Surgery the means to create mixed reality (MR) solution to improve the delivery of surgical care as part of the MMRP. Studies show that nearly one in seven patients hospitalized for major surgical procedures are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, with financial implications for the health system and clinical implications for the patients. Digital Surgery is working to utilize this new partnership, together with other demonstrated capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), to power a radical shift in surgical care.

Microsoft HoloLens

“The Microsoft recognition is truly an honor and sets the stage for our larger mission, which is to deliver safe surgical care for all. With our AI technology and database of digital surgical processes, we’ve trained a computer to understand surgical procedures and predict what happens next.” Explains Dr. Jean Nehme, CEO, Digital Surgery, discussing the strategic importance of the partnership: “With HoloLens, we open the exciting opportunity to use the system’s integrated camera as the visual recognition system to deliver even more immersive experiences for the entire surgical team. This collaboration is a critical part of our strategy to partner with the world’s best technology firms, especially providers of breakthrough hardware, to support the delivery of safer surgery. I am excited to see what we can accomplish together.”

By being a part of the MMRP, Digital Surgery will be able to leverage technology, knowledge and experience along with Microsoft’s HoloLens MR headset to bring their goal to reality. According to the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, more than five billion people lack access to safe surgical care, with operative knowledge being one of the critical factors that has yet to scale globally. Addressing this problem is one of the goals of Digital Surgery by leveraging innovative technologies and intelligent operation systems.

Digital Surgery

“We are delighted to have Digital Surgery accredited as a Mixed Reality Partner. Given the pace of technological change, it is key that customers can access partners who understand mixed reality potential and have the proven ability to deliver transformative solutions.” Added Leila Martine, Product Director, Mixed Reality, Microsoft: “It’s great to see Microsoft HoloLens being added to Digital Surgery’s impressive content catalogue, and help us jointly shape the future of surgery and improvements in patient outcomes.”

VRFocus will be sure to bring you all the latest on the work from Digital Surgery as they now work as part of the MMRP, so stay tuned for more.