Microsoft HoloLens: Cheat sheet

Not much has been said about Microsoft’s HoloLens despite the launch of the developer edition in March 2016. It’s easy to mistake the product for a virtual reality headset when you first hear about it, but it isn’t that at all: It’s an augmented reality device.

The HoloLens uses specialized optics and holographic processing to render 3D images in space but visible only to the user. The rest of the real world is preserved, allowing the wearer to manipulate the hologram and perform other tasks.

It’s not hard to see the business applications of such a device, and Microsoft’s current marketing material points to just such an intent.

TechRepublic’s cheat sheet about Microsoft HoloLens is a quick introduction to this “mixed reality” headset, as well as a living guide that will be updated periodically as its platform, hardware, and applications evolve.

Executive summary

  • What is Microsoft’s HoloLens? The HoloLens is a “mixed reality” headset that projects 3D holograms onto the lenses. The wearer can move around the object, manipulate it, and experience it as if it were actually present.
  • Why does Microsoft’s HoloLens matter? Augmented reality has been hot in tech for a while—there are even mobile apps that allow you to use your smartphone camera to view 3D images in space just like HoloLens. Microsoft’s new device, if it works well, could truly make augmented reality practical.
  • Who does Microsoft’s HoloLens affect? The HoloLens has the potential to affect nearly anyone. You could take a video call while walking around the office, study anatomy using 3D objects, play AR games, and do pretty much any 2D task you would normally do in Windows.
  • When was Microsoft’s HoloLens released? The development edition of the HoloLens was released in March 2016, and a commercial suite has since been added. Plans for a consumer headset have not been announced. Development and practical use of the platform is possible, and Microsoft continues to release its own apps for the platform.
  • How can my business use Microsoft’s HoloLens? There’s no end to the ways you can use HoloLens for business, but keep in mind that specific software may need to be developed in-house. There are quite a few apps available for the HoloLens, but they may not meet the needs of specific industries or tasks.