June 25, 2017

How HoloLens Will Change Windows UI – (1) Break of Screens

 

break screen
In this series of posts, we are going to discuss how HoloLens will change the Windows graphical interface. The topic is about how the GUI is displayed and the human-computer interface in general. In this post, it’s about how HoloLens will change the concept of display: screen or no screen.

Why HoloLens’ Most Remarkable Achievement Is Its Display

One day I walked pass my university dump site, saw some punch cards spreaded all over, along with other regular office waste. I asked friends beside me, and I was told they were used in computers. That was my first sight of computer related stuff. That’s the early form of computer I/O devices, not including the very primitive direct wire switches. Then there are monitors. First computer I used was a big machine, I don’t remember what it looked like, but I remember I was sitting in front of a tinny (9″ probably?) console, writing program in BASIC, in blue letters. My first personal computer had a 14″ CRT screen, with full 256 colors. It later run Windows 3.0. I remember I went to a computer technology exhibition like 20 years ago, I saw a few 20″ monitors, and thought, wow, maybe I can have one some day. Well, the day is here, 20″ monitors are here, they are no longer CRTs.

People are demanding bigger and bigger screens, because they make productive work more productive. People who work with AutoCAD and SolidWorks know, you have to open a lot of windows at the same time to get work done. I think any general office work today need multiple window to open at the same time. This is certainly not limited to office work. So, we feel a 27″ inch screen is not good enough, and want to add a second screen.

Now, what if I tell you: forget about screens, no second monitor anymore, actually no screen anymore? What if software interface can go as far as you can see? Please look at the picture on the top of this post, that’s what happens with HoloLens. You can put any window, any visual object, anywhere in the space you see, they are all holograms.

I say, that alone is a revolution.

PC + HoloLens: How It Works

We have been constrained by the dimensions of display devices for so long. Everything that needs human interactions has to open a window. The problem is the growth of number of windows is much faster than the growth of screen side we can afford, and being practical. Computing devices have largely categorized by screen sizes: 25″(desktop), 15″(laptop), 10″(tablet), 8″(small tablet), 6″(phablet), 5″(smartphone), 2.5″(no so smartphone), <2″(IoT). Screen sizes have been a technical barrier for mobility. Imagine computer engineers are no longer limited by screen sizes, they can develop very powerful machines that are still portable. Now with HoloLens, the screen is broken, and holograms are set free from a contained square of boxe. They go where you go, or where you want them go. There will be no more tablets, there will be no more smartphones. HoloLens on its own is a not so powerful and powerful enough PC you can take anywhere you go (I didn’t say wear anywhere you go). It is also a infinite sized screen when paired with another PC, or another Xbox console. It will re-categorized the devices we have now, it will make some of them disappear, some of them reposition themselves, it will break our reliance on the traditional display technology, the one we have been using for about 100 years. If any of you is honest enough, you would agree: This is more than A revolution, this is a few revolutions added up.

In the next post, I will talk about other impacts HoloLens will have on Windows and the technology as a whole.

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