Future Decoded: HoloLens to be rolled out to 29 new countries

Microsoft will expand the availability of HoloLens by launching the headset in 29 new countries across Europe, the company announced at Future Decoded.

The mixed-reality device, which allows wearers to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them, is being used by NASA to recreate Mars, Audi and Saab, among others.

HoloLens is currently available in 10 markets, including the UK, but will now be rolled out further.

The new markets are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

Lorraine Bardeen
Lorraine Bardeen

Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Microsoft HoloLens and Windows experiences, also announced that HoloLens complies with eyewear regulations in North America and Europe. This means workers can wear the device without additional protective eyewear. Microsoft is also developing hardhat accessories for HoloLens.

“At Microsoft we are on a mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more,” said Bardeen. “Mixed reality has the potential to help customers and businesses across the globe do things that, until now, have never been possible. Mixed reality experiences will help businesses and their employees complete crucial tasks faster, safer, more efficiently, and create new ways to connect to customers and partners.”

The rollout was announced by Bardeen at Future Decoded, Microsoft’s largest UK enterprise event, which was held at ExCeL in London.

The two-day conference was attended by tens of thousands of business leaders, journalists and analysts, and featured speakers such as Panos Panay, Vice-President for Surface at Microsoft; Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK Chief Executive; Chris Bishop, Lab Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge; former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville and comedian David Walliams.

Panos Panay
Panos Panay

During his keynote speech on the first day of Future Decoded, Panay announced a new Surface device that will launch in December. The Surface Pro with LTE Advanced is “lightning fast” and “delivers global connectivity with support of 20 cellular bands, so you can work, study, create or relax uninterrupted”, he said.

He also unveiled the Surface Book 2 for the first time in the UK. The device is the most powerful Surface ever made, with up to 17 hours of battery life. The 13-inch version will be released in this country later this month, with a 15-inch following early next year.

“Look at how the workplace is changing, how people work every day is changing, where they work is changing,” Panay said. “In just three years, 50% of the global workforce will be mobile. It’s up to us to create an entirely new world of work for them, and we have to do it simply.

“The Surface Book 2 is every part of Microsoft coming together.”

On the second day of Future Decoded, Karin Strauss, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, explained how her team is working to store information on strands of DNA. She revealed that the world can currently only store 30% of all the data produced, and this will drop to 0.5% in 2040. New technology could solve that problem.

“The world is producing much more data than we can store, and we have to throw away a significant proportion of it. Storing data in DNA molecules could help with this problem. A tiny portion of DNA could store 10TB of data.

“We find DNA naturally in nature, and we can read 1,000-year-old DNA. As a medium it can last for a long time if it is kept in the right conditions. We can create those conditions synthetically; if you keep DNA at 10 degrees Celsius, you can store it and recover its information.”

Dr Krysta Svore
Dr Krysta Svore

Strauss said storing information on DNA was not science fiction, it was reality.

“We have stored 400 megabytes of data and can fully recover it. We’ve encoded books, the declaration of human rights, music videos, the database of seeds stored in the Human Vault, and jazz songs. 400 megabytes may not seem a lot, but every mainstream storage method went through this process.”

Strauss works in the same team as Dr Krysta Svore, who is working to build the world’s first quantum computer. While no one has achieved a working example, Svore said her team is making progress.

“We are trying to put the components together, and it’s in the engineering stage,” she said. “There are qubits and software and many other things, but getting them to work together and make it scalable means getting lots of people to come together. Historically, these people worked in isolation on this problem, Microsoft’s plan was to bring them together, a dream team, to rapidly innovate around a solution. We want to achieve a scalable, programmable quantum computer.”

As a quantum computer is much faster than current devices, it could help solve the world’s biggest problems in a fraction of the time as methods today.

“We would love to tackle global warming,” Svore added. “News reports recently announced the highest level of CO2 ever recorded, and that’s frightening. We would love to find a catalyst to extract carbon and combat global warming. We also want to tackle issues with global food production.

“But with every question we answer we will get more questions. What else do atoms play a role in? It will give us the ability to look at another level of the world.”

One of the final speakers was Gary Neville, who laid out his vision for an academic university called UA92 that aims to give young people a qualification and build life skills.

“What is success for this university? They have a business degree, they have a developed personality, and they are ready to come and work for a company,” he said.