Microsoft Outlines Plans for Budget VR, Will Share Dev Kit in February

Paul Ballard

8 Dec , 2016  

If you’re not ready to shell out $3,000 for a Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality device, you’re not alone, and Microsoft knows this. That’s why it’s partnering with companies including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo to create a line of lower-cost augmented and virtual reality headsets for the Average Joe or Jane Gamer.

The head-mounted displays (HMDs), will start at $299, according to details revealed during yesterday’s keynote at the company’s WinHEC hardware event in Shenzhen, China. They’ll draw on the same Windows Holographic technology that powers HoloLens, but unlike the standalone HoloLens, they’ll need to be connected to a PC to operate.

System requirements for using the HMDs, which are set to start shipping in the first half of 2017, are as follows, according to

CPU: 6th or 7th generation Intel Core i5 mobile dual-core CPU with Hyperthreading or equivalent

GPU: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 (GT2) or equivalent or greater DirectX12-capable GPU

RAM: 8 GB+ Dual Channel required for integrated graphics

Video-out: HDMI 1.4 with 2880×1440 @ 60 HzHDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.3+ with 2880×1440 @ 90 Hz

HDD: 100GB+ SSD (Preferred)/HDD

USB: USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.1 Type-C Port with DisplayPort Alternate Mode

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 for accessories

The upshot of this is, of course, that developers will enjoy a much broader market for apps and games.… Read more

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How to Try Microsoft HoloLens for Free

Paul Ballard

13 Sep , 2016  

Not sure yet if you want to spring for a $3,000 HoloLens Developer Kit? If you haven’t yet gotten to try out Microsoft’s augmented reality headset, you’re in luck: The company is taking its HoloLens Roadshow to select Microsoft stores in the United States and Canada beginning this month.

Pre-register online to try out a HoloLens. The dev kits will be there in stock in case you’re convinced and want to buy on the spot.

Here are the remaining demo dates:

Sept. 15-18, Palo Alto, CA and Mississauga, ON

Sept. 22-25, Mission Viejo, CA and Calgary, AB

Sept. 29-Oct. 2, Dallas, TX and Boston, MA

Oct. 6-9, Houston, TX and Tysons Corner, VA

Oct. 13-16, Chicago, IL and Atlanta, GA

Oct. 20-23, Bloomington, MN and Orlando, FL

For inspiration, check out this piece from VRHeads on ‘Four Ridiculous Things You Can Do With a HoloLens.’… Read more

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Microsoft Pushes Business Use of HoloLens at Worldwide Partner Conference

Paul Ballard

11 Jul , 2016  

Despite past demonstrations of holographic phone calls and fanciful worlds of toadstools and flowers, Microsoft’s augmented reality platform, HoloLens, is about more than fun and games, CEO Satya Nadella told the audience Monday at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.

“I would encourage everyone to look at the applicability of this new medium in the context of everyday business applications, because it will really be the most transformative thing,” Nadella, who’s started referring to the technology as ‘mixed reality,’ said according to TechRepublic.

To prove the point, Microsoft demoed a new program developed by Japan Airlines to train mechanics and other employees. HoloLens displayed a 3D model of a jet engine, allowing an employee to interact with the model and learn more about it using gestures and voice commands. There’s also a virtual cockpit for employees learning to be copilots.

Microsoft has recently touted its other HoloLens partnerships with Volvo, Autodesk, The Cleveland Clinic and architectural design firm Trimble. Through the HoloLens enterprise program, companies can purchase the headsets in bulk and experiment with developing their own apps.

In other HoloLens news, Microsoft has incorporated new build tools into its open-source HoloToolkit, reports Thurrott’s Rafael Rivera. Now available for developers to pull down from Github, they cause a new Build Window to launch, which automates a number of time-consuming tasks that previously had to be done manually.… Read more

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Games, HoloLens, Cloud Services Highlight Build 2016 Schedule

Paul Ballard

28 Mar , 2016  

It wouldn’t be a developer conference without some surprises, and Microsoft is already getting us in the mood for Build 2016 with a mysterious description in the event schedule of a session on ‘Something Awesome.’

We’ll have to wait until Build kicks off this Wednesday for details, but the rest of the schedule promises a conference packed with information on game development, the Internet of Things, cloud services and augmented reality.

Attendees can learn about app design approaches for HoloLens, or build a Universal Windows App for Raspberry Pi in a hands-on lab. There are a number of sessions on cross-platform development, including using Xamarin to build mobile apps, Project Centennial to bring desktop apps to the Universal Windows Platform, and Microsoft’s iOS-to-Windows Bridge.

There’ll also be plenty on using Azure to enhance apps, whether that means working with data or engaging players in a game. A session will focus on using Windows 10 to power smart homes. And there’ll be sessions on how Visual Studio is evolving and the integration of Windows 10 games with Xbox Live.

As for news, Microsoft will likely use its keynote to give details on the ‘Redstone’ update to Windows 10, expected later this year.… Read more

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HoloLens Development Kits Will Ship March 30

Paul Ballard

29 Feb , 2016  

Ready to try your hand at building augmented reality apps? Microsoft will start shipping the first wave of its long-awaited HoloLens developer kits on March 30. Today is the first day to pre-order the $3,000 kits for developers who’ve already received invitations from Microsoft. (Haven’t received an invitation yet? Apply here. You must be a registered Windows Insider.)

The kit will come with a number of games and apps designed to demonstrate the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality. They include a holographic version of Skype; HoloStudio, which allows users to build their own holograms, then turn them into physical objects using a 3D printer; and HoloTour, a travel app offering virtual tours of places like Machu Picchu. ActionGram, a social-media-friendly tool for creating holographic video memes, will be available later this summer, according to Microsoft.

Besides the HoloLens headset, developers will receive a Bluetooth-enabled clicker for selecting and controlling virtual objects, a carrying case, a microfiber cloth, charger and micro-USB cable. Specs for the headset itself, per Microsoft, are below. To use the HoloLens, developers will need a Windows 10 PC able to run Visual Studio 2015 and Unity 5.4.

Microsoft also released today a set of tutorials on how to develop for HoloLens.… Read more

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HoloLens Makes Strides, But May Not Be Available to Consumers Anytime Soon

Paul Ballard

19 Feb , 2016  

In a jaw-dropping moment at this week’s TED conference in Vancouver, HoloLens creator Alex Kipman placed a holographic phone call to NASA scientist Jeffrey Norris, who was stationed at a HoloLens across the street.

A life-size version of Norris appeared onstage with Kipman, who was wearing the Microsoft augmented reality headset. The two held a conversation while Norris stood atop a virtual Mars landscape, based on data from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. (A video of the chat was leaked to YouTube and later removed.)

It was the culmination of a demo that also saw Kipman spin his hand to make toadstools and butterflies appear onstage, and extoll the ability of technology like HoloLens to offer us the same digital powers we experience with our computers and tablets—while interacting with a decidedly analog world.

But in comments reported by Re/Code’s Ina Fried, Kipman also made clear that the technology may not be quite ready for prime-time. While the first HoloLens developer kits are set to start shipping this quarter, consumers could have a much longer wait.

“When I feel the world is ready, then we will allow normal people to buy it,” Kipman told reporters, according to Re/Code. “It could be as soon as we say ‘yes,’ and it could be as long as a ‘very long time.’”

Kipman said that while the hardware is robust, there’s not yet enough content to make the device useful to consumers. … Read more

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Take a Peek Inside the Development Process for the Galaxy Explorer HoloLens App

Paul Ballard

17 Feb , 2016   Video

The latest video out of Microsoft brings together two topics of fascination for geeks everywhere: augmented reality and outer space.

A team of Microsoft developers is working hard to take the winning concept from the company’s HoloLens: Share Your Idea contest and turn it into a real app for use with the augmented reality headset. Galaxy Explorer will allow users to use voice commands and gestures to navigate through the Milky Way, “landing” on planets and seeing the surfaces of their room transformed to mimic Mars or the Moon.

It’s a cool idea, and one that entails some interesting challenges for designers: How do you comfortably zoom from a very large to a very small scale? What’s the best way to integrate audio into what has until now been a largely visual medium?

If successful, the app could provide a model for educational uses of HoloLens (and augmented reality in general). The team of 11 core members aims to have something ready to show at Microsoft’s Build developer conference on March 30—around the time the first HoloLens developer units will start shipping—and they’re sharing updates on their progress on the Microsoft Studios website.


The latest video details the team’s initial brainstorming process, in which they tossed around ideas such as letting users sweep their hand to extract the core of a planet.… Read more

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AT&T Announces New Developer Tools, and Other CES 2016 News

Paul Ballard

6 Jan , 2016  

The world’s biggest gadget-fest, CES, officially kicked off in Las Vegas today. The gaggle of products on display ranges from the weird (smart bras) to the derivative (a slew of Surface knockoffs) to the undeniably cool (a drone with built-in VR headset that lets you share its birds-eye view? Yes, please!).

Amid all the hardware hype, here are some news items developers should pay attention to:

AT&T announces new developer tools

Calling the Internet of Things “the Industrial Revolution 2.0,” the wireless carrier made available to developers its cloud-based Flow Designer for building IoT apps. It also debuted two new features for developers to play with: Flow Edge, an efficient way for apps to process real-time data only, and M2X, which allows for publishing different data sets to various user groups.

Microsoft touts car tech partnerships

Microsoft’s smart-car strategy hinges on providing software to a range of manufacturers, not building its own cars a la Google, the company’s car tech czar, Sanjay Ravi, told Business Insider. “Cars of the future are going to look like your office on wheels,” Ravi said. And just like in stationary offices, Microsoft hopes to provide the tools to keep the office running.… Read more

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Microsoft in 2015: The Good, the Bad and the Works in Progress

Paul Ballard

29 Dec , 2015  

‘Tis the season for year-in-review stories, and the techie blogosphere is sounding off on Microsoft’s performance in 2015. It was a banner year for Redmond, most observers agree, despite a few stumbles. Microsoft made bold forays into newer areas like virtual reality and hardware, while leveraging its strong enterprise customer base to build its cloud business, and releasing an operating system that people actually were excited to use. Or as the headline of a recent Business Insider piece put it, “Everybody suddenly loves Microsoft–but the turnaround’s not over yet.

By far the biggest success was Windows 10, now running on more than 120 million machines. With a seamless user experience on desktop and mobile, the new operating system “has for the most part erased any lingering bad memories” from “the disaster that was Windows 8” as Paul Thurrott writes on Petri. Heavy hitters from Netflix to Pandora have recently announced apps built on the Universal Windows Platform, which allows developers to create for multiple devices at once. (There’s even a BB-8 app that lets you control an on-screen droid with voice commands. Merry Christmas, Star Wars fans!)

Critics have slammed Microsoft for failing to address privacy concerns about user data collected by Cortana, Windows 10’s virtual assistant, and for a pushy rollout that had Windows 7 and 8.1 users facing a barrage of prompts to update.… Read more

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The Calm Before the Storm – Preparing for Microsoft Build 2015

Paul Ballard

27 Apr , 2015  

Things have been fairly quiet on the developer front as Microsoft gets ready to put on its really big show in San Francisco, Build 2015.  Here’s a few things we’re looking forward to learning more about.

Microsoft’s Build 2015 starts on Wednesday and its promising to be quite a show.  With a new version of Windows moving quickly to availability, new Azure features being announced if not actually explained, and Visual Studio 2015 around the corner, this conference is sure to hold a few surprises.  Scott Hanselman, a conference keynote favorite, is promising to blow our minds in the keynote.  Here’s a few things we’re hoping to see.

Windows 10+

With Windows 10 Technical Preview rolling out new bits every few weeks its hard to speculate on what really new features are going to be announced for the flagship OS at Build.  Of course what most people are waiting for is a release date which we can expect to get an idea of.  Will there be more Contana?  Or will the focus of Windows 10 for Build be on the Windows Phone version whose technical preview has been running a bit behind the primary desktop release?  And we might even start to get a glimpse at the post 10 release currently code named Redstone.… Read more

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