NASA and Microsoft engineers test Project Sidekick on NASA's Weightless Wonder C9 jet. Project Sidekick will use Microsoft HoloLens to provide virtual aid to astronauts working on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Microsoft is preparing to release its augmented reality headset HoloLens within the next year.
When released, the HoloLens initially will be focused on the enterprise.
The first iteration of the headset may enable architects to show holographic images of potential buildings to buyers or help engineers visualize projects that they're working on.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Computerworld today that the company is focused on a product that could be used by developers and the enterprise. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the BBC (start at 2:49 minutes) that the first version of HoloLens will be "within the Windows 10 time frame," which would be within the next year.
"We are seeing many great ideas coming from developers, and great interest coming from enterprises," a spokesperson said in an email to Computerworld. "When Microsoft HoloLens launches, we will focus on those audiences."
That means gamers may have to wait for their chance to get their hands on the computerized headset, which is aimed at enabling users to see high-definition holograms, while controlling it with hand gestures and voice commands.
It also means that everyone will be waiting longer than they had expected to get a pair of HoloLens.
HoloLens looks like a pair of goggles or wrap-around sunglasses. It is built with a transparent screen, which is geared at letting users see the hologram without obstructing their view of the real world.
NASA is expected to test the wearables on the International Space Station. Astronauts should be able to perform some on-station tasks with less training and be more efficient in the work they're doing. The device would also allow engineers on the ground to see what the astronauts are seeing to coach the astronauts through specific tasks.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said he's confident that Microsoft can get HoloLens launched within a year.
"Given that they had a working prototype a few months ago, I think it's doable," he said. "Most projects are doable in a year, if you can cut a problem feature here or there."
Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, though, said HoloLens could be important for Microsoft's image, which has been in something of a slump after being seen as missing the mobile and social trends.
"This could help Microsoft shed the image of being a stogy old vendor that only gets desktops," said Kerravala. "Microsoft's mobile has failed miserably ... They need something to put them back on the map."
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