Should television makers worry about HoloLens TV?

Every time I watch Microsoft’s promo video for it HoloLens technology, I’m blown away by how it could disrupt so many industries. Watch the video below. Twenty seconds in, “the world with holograms” opens up and you see the Seattle Sounders facing off against FC Dallas. The soccer match appears on a HoloLens TV that materializes on a blank wall.

If the final product delivers what’s seen on the video, then HoloLens owners will presumably be able to watch TV from any room. If that’s the case, then why own a television? The HoloLens TV wouldn’t need video cables or power cords, like a physical television. It doesn’t need mounting equipment. Who knows? It might not even need a set-top box.

Screenshot of Microsoft's HoloLens promo video shows a man watching a soccer game on a virtual TV.
Screenshot of Microsoft’s HoloLens promo video shows a man watching a soccer game on a virtual TV.

Don’t get me wrong, in my household, watching television is usually done with family or friends. We would need about six HoloLens units to replace one physical TV. That isn’t going to happen.

If my 25-year-old self owned a HoloLens in his studio apartment, I don’t think he would fork over hundreds of dollars to buy a “real” TV from Sony, Vizio or Samsung. It seems so cumbersome and restrictive compared to the freedom afforded by a virtual screen that can be projected onto any wall.

Look at that video again. People make Skype calls using virtual screens instead of computer monitors. In another part of the video, a person uses Holo Studio, Microsoft’s 3D modeling program, to build a rocket. The app uses a another virtual screen.

With the use of virtual screens, will HoloLens applications need computer monitors at all? Maybe a physical keyboard paired with a holographic screen will be the laptop of the future. If that’s the case, then companies that make monitors need to keep an eye on this new technology.


The HoloLens will be as revolutionary as the iPhone

The Microsoft HoloLens blends holograms with physical reality to create a mixed world. (Image courtesy of Microsoft)
The Microsoft HoloLens blends holograms with physical reality to create a mixed world. (Image courtesy of Microsoft)

Last week, Microsoft introduced the HoloLens, a system that has the potential to revolutionize how humans use computers. I say it can become as influential as Apple’s iPhone.

Described simply, the Microsoft HoloLens is a pair of goggles that lets you view and interact with 3-dimensional holograms. But that’s about as accurate as saying the iPhone is an iPod, phone and internet communications device. That’s how Steve Jobs described the iPhone when he announced it in 2007.

Eight years later, we see that Apple’s innovation – along with Google’s Android platform – is much more than that. It has transformed our lives. We now walk around with devices that we use to take pictures, share moments, make payments, read news, etc.

The iPhone shoved digital tools into our pockets. The HoloLens unleashes virtual tools into our physical world:

  • The iPhone played movies on a miniature screen. The HoleLens throws Netflix onto any wall.
  • The iPhone tossed angry birds into our pocket. The HoloLens transforms our living room into a Minecraft landscape.
  • The iPhone gave us the power to design on the go. The HoloLens projects our virtual designs onto real-wold objects.

When the iPhone was launched, it was different than smartphones before it, from its “real web” browser to its touchscreen that worked with human fingers instead of a stylus. Microsoft’s device is also different from similar technologies on the market today.

  • Where the Oculus Rift immerses you in a “virtual reality,” the HoloLens blends virtual objects with the real world. It forms a sort of enhanced reality.
  • Where Google Glass and Apple Watch rely heavily on a mobile phone, the HoloLens works independently.
  • Where 3D projectors show movies in a public theater, the HoloLens projects interactive objects to an audience of one.

But what happens if Microsoft’s efforts prove fruitless and the HoloLens fades into obscurity like so many other failed technologies? I’m convinced that this is just the right mix of augmented and virtual reality, and the idea will be adopted by other tech giants and startups. But maybe my enthusiasm is misplaced, especially since I haven’t even had a chance to see the HoloLens in real life.

What do you think? Is my excitement warranted? Will this technology be as revolutionary as I imagine?

What is a good mobile news home page?

Have you seen a good mobile news home page? I’ve been trying to find noteworthy examples, but I rarely visit the main page of any informational site. Like many others, I find most of my news through the “side doors” of mobile apps, social networks and search engines.

Here are four of the main ways I get news on my Android device, excluding Twitter and Facebook. These are screenshots from apps. From the left, we’ve got Prismatic, Zite (yes, I know they were acquired by Flipboard), Feedly, and Circa.

screenshots of four news apps
From left: Prismatic, Zite, Feedly, and Circa.

But an app is not a site. So what do the first pages of mobile news sites look like? Here are samples from four markedly different sites that publish news.

screenshot of four mobile news home pages
From left: The New York Times, TechCrunch, Gawker, and Mediagazer

I didn’t find many common elements between these and other news sites. Without access to their goals and analytics platforms, I can’t tell what works and what doesn’t work.

So what do you think? What mobile news home pages do you visit? What do you like about it? What improvements would you like to see? Please leave a comment below or reach out to me @ksablan on Twitter.

Meet my robot editor, Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemingway's boat Pilar , 1934. (public domain)
Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemingway’s boat Pilar , 1934. (public domain)

If you’re looking for a decent, cheap editor, allow me to introduce you to Hemingway. He started helping me with this blog yesterday. Here is how we work together.

I write a blog post in WordPress.

I copy the text from that post.

I visit and select all the text in the middle column.

I paste in my text.

Hemingway gives me instant feedback. He highlights text that could be improved. Sometimes, I point to those highlights and he offers his advice: “Change to active voice.” Other times, I have to refer to the color-coded notes in the right margin to understand what he’s saying.

Hemingway tells me when he thinks a sentence is hard to read. He suggests simpler phrases when appropriate. He tries to lessen my use of adverbs.

Hemingway is a web app created by Adam and Ben Long. It’s a robot editor whose goal is to make “your writing bold and clear.”  I couldn’t find any information on the site to explain how Hemington works.

The app is also available as a $6.99 program for Mac or Windows computers. For that price, you can work offline, save your text and use markdown.

No, Hemingway can’t completely replace a human editor. But I’m a zero-budget blogger with no one to read my posts at 12:41 a.m. Hemingway is the only editor I know who will work these hours for free, and he has definitely improved my blog posts.