Microsoft is releasing HoloLens, its mixed-reality headset, in the UK.
The company announced that people in six new markets can now pre-order the device, which allows users to see computer-generated holograms in the real world and has been used by organisations such as NASA and Audi.
From today, HoloLens is available to pre-order in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and will be shipped later this year. It takes the total number of HoloLens markets to eight, following previous launches in the US and Canada in March.
“Since the launch of HoloLens we have seen really passionate developers and world-class companies develop ground-breaking computing experiences; experiences only possible on HoloLens,” said Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow at Microsoft Windows and Devices Group.
“When we set out to pioneer the mixed-reality category we knew that many of the best innovations would be discovered when others got their hands on the technology. It has been quite inspiring to see what our partners have built and what individual developers have created.
“Together, we have only scratched the surface for what mixed reality can do. I can’t wait to see what happens next as we welcome these new countries to our holographic landscape.”
Rather than place users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows you to put 3D digital models in the room with you. As the Windows-10-based product does not have wires or external cameras, or requires a phone or PC connection, users can walk around the objects they create and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.
Microsoft first announced HoloLens, which is aimed at developers and enterprise customers, at its Windows 10: The Next Chapter event in January 2015, and has since seen many global companies use the technology in their businesses.
NASA has used HoloLens to recreate Mars in their offices, allowing scientists to virtually conduct operations on the Red Planet. As part of the Sidekick project, NASA took HoloLens to the International Space Station to enable station crews to get remote expert assistance when and where they needed it, reducing crew training requirements and increasing the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space. The NASA team also created the ProtoSpace HoloLens application to build the next generation of spacecraft and space rovers, and bring 3D spacecraft designs into the world to help improve the process.
Audi, meanwhile, is using HoloLens to communicate with customers and help with engineering.
“Audi is invested in leading the future of automotive design through the use of cutting-edge technologies. A technology like Microsoft HoloLens could open up new opportunities for our services in many ways – from engineering reviews and collaboration to after-sales scenarios and new ways of customer experiences – there are many use cases to be realised,” said Jan Pflüger, Coordination Augmented & Virtual Reality at Audi IT.
“HoloLens will help us improve service quality, cut time and costs required for maintenance, as well as combining it with a new way of customer communication. A mixed-reality solution like HoloLens seems very promising in achieving these goals. We see an exciting future in this technology and look forward to expanding its use at Audi.”
ThyssenKrupp, which designed and installed the 12 escalators and 71 elevators at One World Trade Center and whose lifts transport more than one billion people a day globally, said “the application of HoloLens in our operations can reduce service intervention times by up to four times”. “Such a feat was only made possible through our strong collaboration with Microsoft,” Andreas Schierenbeck, the company’s Chief Executive, said.
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has started using HoloLens, while vehicle maker Saab called the technology “transformational”.
According to market intelligence firm IDC, “worldwide revenues for the augmented reality and virtual reality market will grow from $5.2 billion in 2016 to more than $162 billion in 2020″.