June 23, 2017

HoloLens Partners with Samsung?

hl3

 

This is not much news, and not important to me, but figured some like to heard.

WindowsCentral reports there is rumor saying Samsung is seeking partnership with HoloLens. The rumor is from The Korea Times, I don’t bother to check and hope that’s not North Korea.

The rumor doesn’t say what form of partnership, or the state of it, or whether there is talk on going, but this is just another piece of information saying Windows Holographic will be adopted by third party vendors. That does not conflict with what we know. I doubt it has anything to do with HoloLens though.

I would like Samsung continue making their garbage phones with the ugly, laggy OS. It doesn’t make me happy that Samsung has anything to do with HoloLens.

 

 

The Holographic Experiences

holoac
Here are some HoloLens experience from real people. It’s funny I have call them real people, anyway, enjoy.

This is a very personal and truthful post from NUIWorld: The Holographic Academy Experience

And this is a very nice write up: Holographic Academy: I looked through a HoloLens and saw the future.

And this one from Rene Schulte:   Magic Moments – Recap of the Holographic Academy

 

Watch HoloLens Presentation From //BUILD/2015 Keynote (Day1)

 

alx

 

Many people have watched Build day 1 keynote Live stream or watched the video after the event. It’s 3 hours long, and have 3 parts: 1. Azure, Cloud (ScottGu), 2. Office, Outlook.co, 3. Windows 10: (Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore, Alex Kipman). The last part is Alex, 25min all about HoloLens.

Now I want to share with you the 25 minute HoloLens section. Enjoy.

 

 

To Clarify Holographic Academy

 

academy

 

In yesterday’s BUILD keynote live post, I mentioned “Holographic Academy”. Didn’t get what that was. I thought it might be permanent setup for developers to learn programming HoloLens. When I looked further after the conference, it appears to be a setup for BUILD attendees only. Because when I go to HoloLenEvents.com/build as it points out, it requires BUILD credentials.

Maybe there will be a permanent “Holographic Academy”, but just not sure yet. So, the title should have been “Try To Clarify Holographic Academy”.

I will update on this when I get more info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Expect from //BUILD/ 2015 (Updated)

 

Build

 

Microsoft’s long-awaited, developer focused //BUILD/ conference, //BUILD/2015 will be staged in San Francisco next Wednesday 29th. BUILD happens annually, but this year is very special. Not only because it is the year of new Windows release, but also because of the changes made to this version comparing to the past. I would put Windows 10 in the similar magnitude of Windows 95. They are similar in amount of changes, but Windows 10 focuses on unification, or like what they say, convergence. Traditionally, it’s supposed be a developer event, but it affects general consumers more than developers. The one app runs on everything will be told and demoed again and again, but the star of the show will be Windows Holograhic and Hololens, and I don’t have to tell you why.

In anticipating of the big event, I am trying to put my thought in the past together, look at what will be showing, shinning and dazzling. I am quite confident about a few things, not sure about others. I will tell you when I am not.

 

Build Universal App: Why and How

Since Universal Application Platform (UAP) is the centerpiece of Windows 10, I am expecting the story of the convergence of Windows eco-system, and how things come together. Important thing is what happens if all device from 80″ screen to 0″ screen run exact the same application. I would expect a number of first party universal apps and a few third party universal apps demoed on stage. To developers, we will be shown how to work the magic ourselves.

 

Availability of Windows 10

I have a strong feeling, and a credible logic, that Windows 10 RTM date will be announced on the first day, 29th. It was reported that Microsoft had planned on June RTM (see the following link), but formal announcement and exact date would be nice. Also, I think there is strong likelihood that GA(General Availability) date will be announced too. It is said GA will be end of July, but not yet official.

Windows 10 to Release at the End of July

 

Availability of Visual Studio 2015

Microsoft already confirmed Visual Studio 2015 will be released in the summer. The exact date is not known. Common sense is availability of Visual Studio 2015 is tied to that of Windows 10. So, they are likely to be announced together. The date is likely end of July. Before that, developers can use Visual Studio 2015 CTP6 and Windows 10 tech preview SDK on Windows 10 tech preview.

 

Gamming on Windows 10

Starting from Windows 10, gamming is no longer just Xbox and PCs, a game that runs on Xbox should theoretically run on any device, resource permits and developer allows. So there will be certain number of games running across board.

 

Devices

I don’t expect major announcement around devices, like flagship Lumia, Surface Pro 4. It’s not clear when those two will be released, but there is a important timeline: before back-to-school or after. Both are possible.

Edit: There are rumors regarding Surface Pro 4 to be announced at BUILD. I am not sure how to take it. On one hand, the sources are not really credible, on the other, I feel they can be right. Surface Pro 3 was released in June last year, it’s about a year now. If SP4 is stopped by Windows 10, then there is no reason to hold off after July. Also we have seen SP3 price cut recently, but again, BUILD is software centered. If they announce it now and available in August? Unlikely. So I still vote no to that. We will have to wait and see.

 

Windows Hologram and HoloLens

microsoft_hololensGamesOnNet

I anticipate that the most exciting demonstration and announcement will be around the Windows Holograhic and HoloLens.

First off, the Windows Holographic API and SDK will be announced and available immediately! Remember Windows Holographic is not just HoloLens, it’s crazy thinking but I won’t be surprised if something else other than HoloLens based on Windows Holographic is announced: first party or second party. I have something in mind, but I rather not say, because I am afraid to be wrong. Anyway, I think something is definite there, I am just not sure if it will be unveiled this time.

And best of the bests, you already know it, is Hololens, so, be excited. There will be more demos, but I think this time there will be real applications and games. I expect third party apps and games on stage. There will be demos of how HoloLens work with other devices: like PC and Xbox. I am really excited about this.

Developers will get HoloLens right on the meeting. It will not be final product, but close to final, with all the functions ready.

Finally the biggest questions everyone is asking: HoloLens Release Date, and Price. Here is my low confidence guess: there is a chance HoloLens release date will be announced on 29th, and price will be kept secret, but we will certainly get a hint of both. The media will ask them those two questions any way.

 

Edit: I have misspelled Windows Holographic as Windows Hologram, just corrected.

 

 

 

 

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.

In 2019, You May Not Need a Smartphone, Or a Tablet
HoloLens Technology – 3D World Mapping
HoloLens Technology – Eye Tracking

 

 

 

 

Why Microsoft Should Cover the VR Ground?

game1
Since the announcement of HoloLens in Jan. 21st, augmented reality(AR) and virtual reality(VR) has been the talk in technology world. Since then many VR vendors have announced their plans. Many analysts believe the AR/VR is upon us starting this year, certainly next year.

Taking a closer look at the AR/VR play field, notice there are interesting patterns: 1. There are more players in VR. 2. VR products (or projects) are more mature, more ready for the market. They generally have real stuff to show the press, even some estimated release dates. AR are more quiet. There are fewer players, and most of them don’t have a solid time table for release. Some AR products, like the one from ODG, are already on sale, but those are very limited in functions, not full featured AR devices.

Many put HoloLens in AR category, I honestly hesitate to do that. HoloLens is certainly most advanced AR device to be released this year, but did Microsoft just missed the VR? Lets take a look.

Market wise, VR is more of niche. Because of nature of technology, the chance of the headset getting much smaller is low, I have wrote about this before. Its target users would likely be hardcore gamers, who value immersive-ness over the look and style. Unfortunately, that’s the main market for Xbox console. If Sony comes up with VR device that works with PS4. Valve/HTC come up with VR headset work with their game titles, Microsoft stands to loose hardcore gamers. I wouldn’t simply say, Microsoft don’t know or don’t understand this. I also wouldn’t say that Microsoft was caught by surprise, because Sony and other VR vendor’s VR plan are highly visible for a couple years now. The question remains: what is Microsoft’s plan for VR. Let me say it again, they can’t ignore it. They probably haven’t. So, what is it?

At the GDC 2015 early this month, Phil Spencer talked with Eurogamer.  When asked if Microsoft has locked itself out of VR, he replies,

I don’t think we’ve locked ourselves out, We’ve looked at a mixed reality space that we could do with Hololens and think about it as a unique set of features and technologies to enable, that doesn’t preclude us from doing anything in the VR space either from a first-party or partnership perspective. I’ve used Morpheus, I’ve used Oculus, I’m going to see more of the demos here.

I am trying to make sense out of his comments. This is probably the only time someone from Microsoft talks about VR and answers the exact question. Do I have an answer from that? Not really, but he did give us something to chew on. Microsoft develop a separate headset for VR is unlikely, and doesn’t make much sense. Partnership with VR headset makers is highly possible, but I wonder how that works with Windows Holographic framework. The third option is for HoloLens to cover VR functions instead of just AR. Microsoft have always called HoloLens and Windows Holographic mixed reality. I think it is possible that the strategic play lies in this. Technically, the only thing stop HoloLens from being a VR headset is its field of view. Field of view, from my understanding is mainly limited by processing power in the case of HoloLens, so that can change over time. I tend to think options 2 and 3 are both very likely. I think it’ll be clearer after the BUILD conference next month.

 

Developers: Get Yourself Ready for HoloLens

 

Gallo-blog-1-v2
There is no question that HoloLens presents great opportunities for developers. Getting on the platform early is even a bigger deal. As we’re all aware once a platform get crowed, it’s very difficult for an app to get attention in the market place. The BUILD conference is just a little more than a month away, we will hear more about Windows Holographic and HoloLens. Windows 10 SDK will be released at the time, which will include details about Windows Holographic API and how to write code for HoloLens. Before getting to that, we need get ourselves ready. In this post, I am trying to help with that.

What Should I Do to Develop a Holographic Application?

Nothing. Remember this,

 All Windows universal apps work as holograms.

This is direct quote from Microsoft’s hololens.com. So, you can take my word for it. If you are writing a Windows 10 universal app, you are writing a holographic app. If there is any chance you get confused by this, let me explain: Holograms and 3D are totally different things. A Hologram can be 2D or 3D. A Hologram is simply a digital objects added to the user’s real world. They can be placed, pinned anywhere in the user’s field of view. Of course, if you want to build 3D holograms, there is extra work. In short, if you want to write an app(2D or 3D) that will work on HoloLens, you write a Windows 10 universal app. Windows universal app doesn’t start from Windows 10. It is already there for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. So, you can get information from Windows Dev Center.

Two Important Questions About HoloLens

What Programming Language Should I Choose to Develop a Holographic Application?

Basically that’s the question you would ask about developing a Windows universal app. Here is a post from Microsoft about the topic. But here I will give you an digested, more useful answer.

Here are the choices:

  • HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • XAML and C#
  • XAML, DirectX and C++
  • DirectX and C++

First, I want to vote NO to JavaScript, so did most developers. JavaScript is just a big mess. I am not a big fun of going 20 years back and crafting every UI by hand. HTML and CSS are just not programmer friendly. Not to mention there are limitations comparing to C++ and C#.  #2 and #3 are basically your choices. XAML has been the official UI construction language for Windows and Windows Phone. It is proven to be powerful and easy to use. So, it comes down to this: C# vs. C++/DirectX. The former is easier, the later gives more control over WinRT and DirectX. If you have to deal with a great deal of graphics especially 3D, C++/DirectX would be the choice. Otherwise, C# will serve you well, and save you a lot of time.

What If I want to Develop 3D Holographic Applications?

Many people say the whole point of HoloLens is 3D. Well, yes and no. In any case, if you want to learn how to write 3D holographic code, you have to wait until BUILD. I have managed to get some bits from Windows 10 preview, that says nothing about 3D programming, but that’s how much I know for now.

HoloLens Misconception – 3D

What Should I do Now?

Before Windows Holographic SDK is ready, If either of these: XAML, C#, C++, DirectX doesn’t make prefect sense to you, head to Windows Dev Center, find a tutorial and some sample projects. Also, browse topics about developing Windows universal apps.

HoloLens: Some Early Bits for Developers

There are hints there might be a emulator for HoloLens, just like the emulator for Windows Phone, but I am not sure. Also, Wired have said Microsoft is planning to bring HoloLens to devs hands in this spring. Hope that turns out true.

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (8) Holo-Movie
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (7) Holo-Escort
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (6) Holo-Online Store

 

Does HoloLens Need Apps to Succeed?

 

With Windows 10, holograms are Windows universal apps, and all Windows universal apps work as holograms.

This is a direct quote from Microsoft website: hololense.com. So, what does that mean? Why is that important?

 

Microsoft-HoloLens

First, let me stress this point again: Hologram doesn’t imply dimensions, there are 2D holograms, 3D holograms. Look at the picture above: the video(or stream) app is 2D, the Recipes and Notepad apps are probably 2D as well. The weather app is sort of 3D. They are all holograms. They can be pinned to the wall, docked to the table, float in the air or even follow you where you go if designed so. Back to our question, if all Windows universal apps work as holograms, they will act like those apps on the above picture. By the way, “Windows universal apps” refers to applications developed to work across all Windows 10 devices, from smartphone to desktop, that includes HoloLens. Starting with Windows 10, I suspect almost all new apps written for Windows 10 will be universal apps. Will the current apps be automatically turn to universal when runs on Windows 10? Maybe not, but I am very sure for majority of the current apps, there won’t be any code change, only recompile/repackage is required from the developers.

For Corporate IT, HoloLens is Another Mobile Device To Manage

This brings us to the question: Does HoloLens need apps to succeed? I give my answer first then I will explain. The answer is Yes and No. Yes, if the question is about any kind of apps; No if the question is purely about 3D apps.

In general sense, the reason you buy a computer is there are software on it, which can do all sort of things you want to do: email, web browsing, Skype, music, video, home work, office work. I am quite certain that all of things I just listed would be there at the release of HoloLens. I heard you say, “Hey, I don’t buy HoloLens just to do email, web browsing or home work, I want the 3D holograms.” I am pretty sure there are 3D holographic apps and games available at the lunch. I am also aware that 3D holograms is the main attraction for general public. However, to be clear, for any product to be successful, it has to pass the initial excitement. A computer is essential to your life is because you can’t live without it. The lasting attraction of HoloLens is: it will change the way you use a computer. When you sit at your desk, you have all your apps around you, they are no longer contained and crammed inside a 20 inch or 27 inch monitor. That alone makes me want to buy a HoloLens as soon as it is released. That doesn’t mean I am not excited about playing Minecraft or exploring Mars in my living room.

HoloLens Misconception – 3D

There will be countless uses for HoloLens, for work, for play, and most of them involves 3D holograms as shown in my other posts. My point is: even without 3D, 2D holograms are already amazing, and you can bet they will be there at the time you buy a HoloLens.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (8) Holo-Movie
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (7) Holo-Escort
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (6) Holo-Online Store
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (5) Holo-Tutor

 

HoloLens: Some Early Bits for Developers

 

microsoft-hololens-life-on-mars
Microsoft has said that it will unveil Windows Holographic SDK during the BUILD conference in 4/29~5/01/2015 . It also “plans to get Project HoloLens into the hands of developers by the spring“. It appears to me, there will be major unveiling about many things what don’t know about HoloLens. Its technical details will be shown, which gives us certain confidence on what it can deliver. Before that day, we are still in the dark about many things of our interest. Recently I am able to dig into some online discussion about Holographic application development, and found some interesting bits for developer who wants to know about HoloLens.

First is an entry on StackOverflow (a developer exchange site), stating “I’m building a HoloLens app and need to figure out how to dock a control along the edge of a wall within a room”. Obviously this dev is not aware that he in under NDA. So, we know someone is working on HoloLens application development.

Some Important Information About HoloLens

The second piece of information is on Microsoft own developer site: Channel 9, there is a post about something called HoloLens API: ​Windows.​Mirage.​Hologram​ Framework. It appears in Windows 10 build 9926.  Here I quote his entire post:

well, in case you are interested, there are many new pdb files in Windows 10 9926 symbols packages are actually the Windows Holographic stuff, including device drivers, shell components, sample apps, HoloStudio, and SDK stuff like the simulator etc, among them there are some Windows.Mirage.*.dll files looks like the WinRT API surface for Holographics stuff, I extracted some symbols from them.

notice there are many 3D models/animations stuff, but also some UI controls like

Windows::Mirage::HologramFramework::Controls::Button
Windows::Mirage::HologramFramework::Controls::ListView
Windows::Mirage::HologramFramework::Controls::TextBlock
Windows::Mirage::HologramFramework::Controls::TextBox

and there are many “markup” related stuff, even mentions Xaml: Windows::Mirage::HologramFramework::XamlMarkupXmlNamespace

So, maybe we can build holograms in Xaml

This looks like WinRT namespaces instead of C#, but C# should have something equivalent too. Those should look very familiar to people who ever wrote code for Windows and Windows Phone apps. Question is how do they look? Also, it looks like xaml is used too. The mentioning of simulator is very interesting. I wonder how that works for holographic UI.

Two Important Questions About HoloLens

Finally, NUI World has found the following info from same Windows 10 build 9926:

Windows.Human
Windows.Human.Gestures
Windows.Human.Hands
Windows.World
Windows.World.Lighting.Prototype
Windows.World.Sensors
Windows.World.Surfaces
Windows.World.Surfaces.Prototype

So, combine with above we have:

  1. Human – Namespace for the HoloLens wearer, tracking gestures, voice and gaze, dealing with human interaction.
  2. World – Namespace for everything around the HoloLens wearer, which is 3D mapped by HoloLens.
  3. Mirage – Namespace for Holographic UI, 3D models, media(image, video, sound), animation. In other words, it represents the virtual world.

 

HoloLens: Future Is Months Away
Will There Be Low Cost HoloLens?
Will There Be Low Cost HoloLens?

 

 

HoloLens: Where Is My Keyboard?

hl

 

Many people had expressed concerns over text input on HoloLen. Microsoft has said (also please read the Wired article) the user interface for HoloLens are: gestures, voice and gaze. None of those do anything for text input. If all you do is playing games, browsing the web, I would assume the Windows on screen keyboard is still there. However if you want to do anything serious, like what you do in the office, that keyboard wouldn’t work. In the HoloLens promo video (below), office workers who are wearing HoloLens also have a real computer, with a keyboard. There are many cases where you just want to use HoloLens not only as a display, but also a full PC. HoloLens is a full Windows 10 PC after all. We want to have fun with it, we also want to be productive with it. A full featured physical keyboard is definitely a necessity.

There two ways this problem can be solved: One is to have a wireless keyboard, either WiFi or Bluetooth, paired with HoloLens. There really no need to do anything speciall, as HoloLens is a PC. One problem with that solution is you have to have a table to put the keyboard on. That is the case most of times. Still, there are times you may not have a table, like in the kitchen, you want to send someone an email. Luckily, there is a better solution: a virtual keyboard. A virtual keyboard floats in the air. It shows up when you need it, hides itself when you don’t. It looks exactly like a real keyboard, and it gives sound feedback. Only when you type, it feels typing in the air. I think it would work much better than the on-screen keyboard. Also, there can be a virtual pen that you can hold in hand, looking like the Surface Pen. If you want a virtual mouse, that can be done the same way.

I am not sure if things like virtual keyboard, virtual mouse or virtual pen will be implemented with HoloLens, if they won’t, that’s an opportunity for developers. There are plenty use cases.