Month: February 2015

Why everyone needs to be excited about Microsoft Hololens

MSHoloLens_Image_1_CMYK

Microsoft recently announced an entirely new class of wearable – the Hololens. It’s even a cool name. Wearing them the user will be able to hear, see and interact with holographic images overlayed right before their eyes. So why is there not that much excitement about this?

I’m just going to say that again because it needs to be brought front and centre.

Real life holograms. 

Look, I couldn’t even resist using bold it’s so important. This is the beginning of the future many of us read and dreamt about as children. Interacting with virtual objects and people seen in the real world right in front of us.

I have been hearing about the Microsoft Hololens since it was announced. What’s shocking to me after reading and watching videos is how little interest the tech press is giving it. Perhaps they are disillusioned with Microsoft and jaded by past failures. Watching the Microsoft presentation you’d think they had just announced yet another Windows phone or the Zune 2. Giving the press the benefit of the doubt perhaps they were just stunned and had heads down trying to get as much info blogged / recorded as quick as possible. If this had been presented at an Apple Keynote though the crowd would have gone hysterical. It would have been hailed as revolutionary and been relentlessly talked about for months.

This makes Google Glass look like pure crap frankly. Sure it was a nice first step but it was half-baked in hindsight. Getting directions, taking video and photos and getting notifications? Cool, sure. Imagine this scenario though. Using Cortana you voice search for where you want to be as your walking along and the Hololens drop arrows in front of you on the pavement to guide you, whilst you video chat to your friend who is showing you the menu of the restaurant that you’re meeting them at so they can order some starters for you? ( Deep breath ) That is awesome. Not in the totally overused way in which the word is currently thrown around. “Isn’t tomato sauce AWESOME!”. No, in the dictionary definition of awesome.

adjective

1.causing or inducing awe; inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear:
2.exhibiting or marked by awe;showing reverence, admiration or fear.
Honestly I bet the reaction of most people is going to be awe and a tinge of fear as it sounds like magic just hearing about it let alone seeing it.
What can you do with it then? Lets drop an image here of the sort of thing we might use Hololens for as envisaged by Microsoft.
MSHoloLens_MixedWorld_LivingRoom_LongBrowser_CMYKOn his left the guy is browsing through some photos. No doubt in the future we’ll be able to pick up and hold these digital images in our hands if we like or blow them up to a huge size so we could almost be standing in the landscape the photographer has taken. On the right he has a menu. One option is Netflix. Holographic Netflix. Why would you need a cumbersome big TV in the room when eventually the resolution and power of this might be enough to give you an enormous virtual TV that is there wherever you choose to look. Netflix might in time create a range of shows with the actors performing as if they were standing in your living room. Of course it wouldn’t work for big action movies but for arty, dialogue heavy shows and movies I could see this working.
So one thing is for sure the possibilities with this device are huge and if you just sit for a few minutes I bet you can come up with some ideas that you would love to see implemented. Here is a few I quickly thought of:
Holo-shopping – See the object you want at its real size and be able to look around it from every angle. No need for losing hours wandering around IKEA anymore.
Music performances – You could sit in your armchair and watch an artist sit and play their instruments sat on a virtual stool in your living room. Incredibly intimate.
Interior design – Bored of your room? Imagine having a virtual paintbrush and watch as the walls in your room change colours. Add some blinds to the windows. New curtains. All before you set foot in a shop ( although you might not need those – see Holo-shopping ).
3D Sculptures and art works both still and moving.
Those are just a few things I quickly thought and I know there are creative people that will dream bigger and in new directions that my thinking hasn’t yet taken me.
Maybe this will all come in time. So how is it right now? Well the Verge got to try out the current model and they do a good job of giving you of how it is right now. The limited press hands on ( by Microsoft chosing of course ) have been positive and using terms like ‘magical’ and ‘brave and impressive. Rightly they all point out that instead of disconnecting you from your world as VR does the Hololens adds to it and allows you to continue to see around you and interact with people.
Like everything the first gen looks a bit clunky but over time this is going to rock. I think everyone needs to be excited by Hololens.

Why Withings should be making more fuss about the Activité Pop

Withings Activité-Pop

With CES 2015 firmly behind us I thought I would take a moment to write about something that perhaps snuck under the wire amongst all the flashier products on show at CES.

Withings have taken to the smartwatch scene with a different approach. Very much more a watch with a hint of smarts. Under the hood however there is some clever tech in action and a feature which I think makes it much more useful than some other wearables.

The only suggestion this is a smartwatch to look at it is the percentage of goal dial on the front. That’s it. No alerts, notification or other distractions. This may well appeal to some folks who want all the tracking but would rather look at the data on their smartphones on a nice big screen.

None of the usual smartwatch battery woes either. Without an active display the Pop sips power allowing it to run off a standard watch battery for 8 or more months according to Withings. It tracks your sleep and can wake you with a gentle vibation. It will automatically adjust to local time zones.

The Pop ( sorry I just can’t get away with calling it the Activité Pop all the time ) has one clever trick that I have been waiting on for some time. It knows when you change activity. At last! Currently it can detect when you swap from walking to running and in an update it will know when you have started swimming too. This is a great step in the right direction.

Ok so you don’t have heart rate tracking nor GPS to track routes so perhaps it’s not for more serious athletes. You are getting a pretty nice looking watch with a lot of clever features and amazing battery life for £119.95. I think this should definitely should be on your short list for a wearable device and would make a nice gift for someone wanting to get started with fitness tracking.

You can pick one up on Amazon here:

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