Hands-On with Microsoft’s Hologram Device

Microsoft didn't use skydivers or stunt cyclists to introduce what it hopes will be the next big leap in computing technology. Instead, with its new HoloLens headset, the company is offering real-world examples to show how you might use three-dimensional digital images -- or holograms -- in daily life.

And that might be what it takes to get people to buy a computer they wear on their face.

I got a brief peek at what wearing the HoloLens could be like in different scenarios: performing a simple home repair, pretending to be a scientist studying the surface of Mars and exploring a colorful, animated game that added new dimensions to an unremarkable room.

Microsoft unveiled HoloLens at its headquarters this week, on the same day the company touted its upcoming Windows 10 software release. What I saw of the device seems unfinished, but it shows potential.

A Crowded Field

Some of the world's biggest tech companies are working on wearable devices that aim to create realistic, three-dimensional representations of alien worlds or imaginary creatures.

Google's computerized eyewear, Glass, isn't technically a virtual-reality device, but it shows the challenges of winning consumer acceptance. Google introduced Glass in 2012 with a Vegas-style stunt that included mountain bikes and skydivers landing on the roof of a convention center. Last week, it suspended consumer sales after many people balked at the notion of wearing a digital camera and Internet-connected device on their head.

Meanwhile, Google has invested in a secretive start-up, Magic Leap, that's working on virtual reality. Samsung and Oculus VR -- which Facebook bought for $2 billion last year -- are developing gaming headsets that essentially block the wearer's view and replace it with an imaginary world. Smaller companies have developed headsets for industrial or business uses.

Microsoft's HoloLens was built by engineers who created the Kinect motion-sensing system for...

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