Microsoft Has a 'Star Trek'-Like HoloLens Projector in Its Labs

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Microsoft has a prototype of a holographic projector that can beam 3D objects into a room without a headset; it has been revealed. The company’s currently working on refining its HoloLens augmented reality headset, which can overlay objects on a set of goggles, but Microsoft is aiming for a future that removes the headgear from the equation.

“The ultimate goal is holograms without the headset,” Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, told British carrier Vodafone in an interview published Thursday. “We (and other companies) have prototypes in our labs capable of projecting objects in three dimensions that you can see without a headset. It’s hard, and it’s expensive, and the resolution isn’t great, but it’s just the beginning of that journey.”

That journey could mean Microsoft is finally realizing its original vision for HoloLens. Its initial January 2015 demo showed a number of use cases that would work a lot better without goggles. Instructions on how to fix plumbing makes sense for goggles, as it keeps the wearer’s hands free and allows him to operate in confined spaces. But in a living room with plenty of space, Minecraft would be way cooler without the headset:

Coplin also outlined a situation where users communicate in holographic form. Here, Microsoft is on a collision course with Facebook, which imagines people strapping virtual reality headsets to their faces and immersing themselves in a new world. VR expert Michael Abrash believes that, in five years time, headsets will detect the real world and bring objects into the virtual world, creating an “augmented VR.”

Facebook’s vision may have to fill the gap for now. Microsoft’s projector, much like Star Trek’s other technologies, won’t be hitting the shelves for a long time. “Having a conversation with your far-flung relatives in their holographic form in your kitchen is still a long way off, but it is the direction the technology is moving in, and that spells exciting times ahead,” Coplin said.

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