We've learned some amazing things about Microsoft's Windows Holographic platform since it was announced back in January. We know that NASA is using it to virtually explore Mars, and you can play Minecraft on your coffee table, and today we learned that the company will integrate all universal apps running on Windows 10 into the experience.
But a short demo near the end of today's Microsoft Build 2015 keynote showed us a little bit more about how HoloLens can help blend virtual reality with the real world to create what the company calls "mixed reality." A small metal robot drove on stage, and the presenter used HoloLens to make a cute robotic avatar float above it. What was, just moments before, an inhuman hodgepodge of metal and plastic now had a much more familiar and anthropomorphic form.
With the 3D-mapping capabilities of HoloLens, the robot was able to navigate the stage, plot a course to move around, and even adjust that course when Alex Kipman stepped in its way. Think of it as a Roomba, only much, much cooler.
The presenter was also able to generate and interact with a control panel that hovered next to the virtual robot, which let her control the color of the lights on the physical robot, as well as visualize all the data from the robot's sensors.
Telepresence with HoloLens could be amazing
You might be asking yourself what this can be used for, and that's the kind of question Microsoft still doesn't have concrete answers for — which is the plan. The company announced that it will offer Windows Holographic crash courses to developers who want to create their first holograms for the platform. The more hands Microsoft gets HoloLens into, the quicker we'll understand just how useful the technology will be. One thing's immediately clear, however — this could be a much better way to handle telepresence than an iPad on a stick.