Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Microsoft HoloLens

Jessi Hempel of Wired got a sneak peek back in October at what is — by a gigantic margin — the coolest and most interesting piece of technology Microsoft unveiled at their big Windows 10 event today:

[Alex] Kipman leads me into a briefing room with a drop-down screen, plush couches, and a corner bar stocked with wine and soda (we abstain). He sits beside me, then stands, paces a bit, then sits down again. His wind-up is long. He gives me an abbreviated history of computing, speaking in complete paragraphs, with bushy, expressive eyebrows and saucer eyes that expand as he talks. The next era of computing, he explains, won’t be about that original digital universe. “It’s about the analog universe,” he says. “And the analog universe has a fundamentally different rule set.”

Translation: you used to compute on a screen, entering commands on a keyboard. Cyberspace was somewhere else. Computers responded to programs that detailed explicit commands. In the very near future, you’ll compute in the physical world, using voice and gesture to summon data and layer it atop physical objects. Computer programs will be able to digest so much data that they’ll be able to handle far more complex and nuanced situations. Cyberspace will be all around you.

What will this look like? Well, holograms.

This sounds incredible, in the most literal sense — I could scarcely believe this was actually being launched. To be sure, the promo video exaggerates the quality of the holograms, but the live demo during today’s event looked impressive. And it would be, because Kipman was also responsible for the Xbox Kinect.

Of course there were some things not announced today: battery life, a price, or a launch date. I’m also skeptical of how much I’ll tolerate a speech-and-gesture-driven interface if it isn’t nearly perfect. But let’s enjoy this moment. It feels like I’m ten years from now, and that’s crazy.