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?