Microsoft’s vision of a presence future: The Windows Holographic OS

[Microsoft’s vision for Windows as a standard operating system for virtual and augmented (mixed) reality has important implications. Here are two stories on this development: the first is from CNN Money, where the original features Microsoft’s 1:03 minute concept video, and the second is a big picture analysis from IT Business Edge that, among other things, identifies the origins of a presence-infused future in the Reeves and Nass-inspired ‘Bob’ product. –Matthew]

Windows Holographic OS (concept video screenshot)

Microsoft unveils its new vision for Windows

by Hope King
June 1, 2016

Microsoft wants to do for virtual reality what it did for PCs: Make the emerging technology as ubiquitous as possible.

To do that, the company is trying to get its Windows Holographic platform into as many devices as possible, just like it did with Windows when personal computers first hit the market. (Think of Windows Holographic like a standard operating system for virtual reality and augmented reality.)

Microsoft presented its plans on Wednesday in Taipei during Computex, a consumer electronics trade show.

“Windows Holographic is coming to devices of all shapes and sizes from fully immersive virtual reality to fully untethered holographic computing,” Terry Myerson, head of Windows and devices, said in a statement. “[We’re looking ahead] to the future of computing, where the physical and virtual worlds intersect in all new ways, and create further scale for the Windows platform.”

Microsoft envisions computers, displays, VR and AR headsets, and accessories all being built using the Windows Holographic platform, which includes application programming interfaces for holographs and perception technology. Holographic apps will be built on the Universal Windows Platform.

Microsoft first said it intended to incorporate augmented and mixed reality computing into its software in January 2015. That’s also when it showed off its HoloLens, a headset equipped with a holographic processing chip that can understand and respond to users’ movements.

Although VR and AR have yet to take off, analysts estimate that millions of these devices will be available in the next few years. And given that telepresence — live-like video calls — is expected to be one of the benefits of the technology, device compatibility will be crucial to success.

Here’s the scenario Microsoft portrays: You might be working on a project in Germany while your coworkers are in New York. But with VR and AR, everyone can project themselves into the same digital space. In order for that scenario to exist, the devices have to be able to talk to each other.

It won’t matter that one person is wearing a HoloLens, for example, or that someone else is wearing an Oculus headset or the HTC Vive. Windows Holographic devices and applications will be able to take data from each of the devices and render them together.

Forrester Research estimates that corporations’ demand for VR headsets will reach 17 million within four years. In total, Forrester forecasts demand to reach about 38 million devices. Microsoft cites research that says the number is closer to 80 million.

Microsoft will likely get a cut of Windows Holographic device sales. With PC sales on the decline, and Windows sales suffering along with it, Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) needs to make this bet on the future of computing.

The approach is not unlike what Google (GOOG) is doing with its own VR platform, Daydream.

Microsoft’s usual cadre of partners — Intel, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, HTC, ASUS — have already signed on to use Windows Holographic.

[From IT Business Edge]

Microsoft’s Windows Holographic: The End of Everything as We Know It

Rob Enderle | Unfiltered Opinion | Posted 03 Jun, 2016

When I saw the announcement on Windows Holographic, I had no real idea what this was, but in effect, this is the redefinition of personal computing. It its ultimate form, this could make obsolete every single personal computing device we currently have, enable a whole new age of remote communication, and so blur the lines between what is real and virtual that we no longer can, or might even want to, tell the difference. This is potentially so much bigger than just HoloLens that it is hard to know where to start.

It was only after having a conversation with another analyst who had been to the Microsoft Holodeck that I began to see that Windows Holographic is potentially not only a new interface into computing, but a potentially a new interface to the world around us. And, I expect, it will be some time before most of us are even able to wrap our minds around this.

Mixed Reality and Microsoft Bob

I’ve often wondered if Microsoft would eventually come back to the idea of a failed product from the 1990s, “Microsoft Bob.” The concept was fascinating, and it was based on a massive amount of research, if decades ahead of the technology needed to do it. Bob created a friendly artificial reality-based environment with smart avatars that would dynamically assist users with tasks. It actually was very successful with folks who were intimidated by computers, but it was so far ahead of the processing power it needed that, as a new interface, it failed miserably.

But now move 30 years into the present. We are working on true artificial intelligence (AI) and the concepts that underpinned Bob are within reach; the core research was solid. Simple AIs like Siri, Cortana and Alexa are increasingly all around us, and we don’t need to create static environments that emulate reality, we can blend reality with virtual reality into concepts we call augmented reality and holographics. This last is highlighted by Microsoft’s own HoloLens.

Now we have the ability to create increasingly intelligent avatars and place them into the real world using a variety of headsets and feedback controllers. We can scan and place people that are on the other side of the world into rooms with us and get to latencies low enough so the distance is virtually erased, creating a new age of video conferencing that approaches the promise of teleportation (without the nasty problem of actually having to stuff a person into an Ethernet cable, which always seemed a tad dangerous to me).

We can not only have virtual pets that seem increasingly real, they can also be intelligent and talk to us, taking any form we choose and creating what some would have called magic just a few years ago.  To my mind, this is the promise of old Microsoft Bob cranked up to one million and wrapped with the amazing computational and visual capabilities of today.

In short, Windows Holographic is the beginning of the capabilities we see in movies like The Matrix, where computer interfaces were things we could communicate with like people, further enabling the potential for something indistinguishable from human intelligence in a machine. It’s an interface designed around us, not designed around a machine.

Windows Holographic: Everything Is Obsolete

If we can blend what is real with what is virtual and create whatever we need as the representation of a device, do we really need smartphones, tablets, desktops or laptop PCs as we currently know them? Every surface, and even the air, can be a window, or every part of our body (creating some rather interesting and strange concepts). If we want a new device, we can pick one that someone else designed and immediately have it represented virtually. Or we can create one ourselves, with the same outcome. But why be limited to traditional forms? An existing desktop or picture could become a computer, or even a virtual or real pet. The thing is, what Microsoft has potentially created isn’t limited to the physical world or reality as we know it, it is limited by our imaginations and our ability to see past physical limitations. We’ll be able to see through walls to see what exists, will exist, or only exists in our imaginations, change our clothing, wall coverings, and electronics instantly and whenever we want with little or no cost, and communicate to real or artificial intelligences.

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