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Microsoft HoloLens, the augmented reality (AR) headset for holographic computing, is now generally available. The launch was a highlight of the recent Microsoft Build 2016 conference in San Francisco. HoloLens has a number of application areas which should offer fast ROI. Microsoft has made a good choice in AR, in contrast with virtual reality systems that can cause nausea in users.

How holographic computing can offer fast ROI

The launch of HoloLens at $3,000 a unit is not a consumer target but is instead aimed at professional organizations. As an AR device, the holographic projections are immersed in the real physical world viewed through the lens, leading to a range of real-world applications. Virtual reality systems, a complementary technology, fully immerse the user in a virtual world, but this can be a disadvantage in some applications due to the disconnection from reality. At the Build conference Microsoft held an analyst pre-briefing where it suggested a number of areas including communications, collaboration, and education, training and maintenance that should provide a fast return on investment (ROI) on HoloLens, based on discussions it has had with enterprise customers.

  • Communications: remote conferencing with holographic representations of attendees, as well as customer support scenarios where holographic presence provides a more personal approach than video/phone link.

  • Collaboration: design and prototype work can be enhanced with 3D holographic design representations which team members can view simultaneously and discuss, whether co-located or not. Use of HoloLens in this way can help get products faster to market.

  • Education, training, and maintenance/servicing: holograms can aid in providing information in enhanced forms, such as for example, medical students can view internal organs of a human body with superimposed diagnostic data presented visually, or building engineers can see where new construction will fit into the existing surrounds.

Other highlights included biometric security, cognitive intelligence, and chat bots

The Microsoft Build event also highlighted Windows Hello, a biometrics-based sign-on facility using fingerprint or iris scanning that is available on Microsoft’s latest Surface devices and PCs. Biometrics are not 100% secure and can be subverted, but with considerable effort they can address the massive security vulnerability that exists with poorly chosen passwords. For the majority of Internet users who are not high security risks, this will prove an easy and effective improvement. To reduce the problem of ID theft, the adoption of multi-factor systems is recommended, combining, for example, biometrics with other factors such as pin numbers and one-time passwords.

Combining artificial intelligence with chat bots is also a headline initiative for Microsoft, although teething issues have occurred with the chat bots making unacceptable remarks on social networks. When IBM trained Watson to play Jeopardy in 2011, it expended much effort in ensuring embarrassing words were automatically filtered out and not uttered by Watson. This is a non-trivial problem and a provides a lesson that Microsoft has learned the hard way.



Michael Azoff, Principal Analyst, Ovum Infrastructure Solutions Group

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