Microsoft HoloLens comes to the UK

Augmented reality headset could revolutionise business – but it comes at a fairly hefty price

(Image credit: Microsoft)


Hype for consumer virtual reality may be in overdrive with the launch of the PlayStation VR and new smartphone-friendly headsets, but Microsoft has quietly been busying itself with augmented reality (AR) for the last two years.

Also known as mixed reality, AR doesn't create new computer-generated environments; instead, it mixes life with the virtual, layering visual digital data on top of the real thing.

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Microsoft revealed the HoloLens, its breakthrough augmented reality headset, in December 2014 and you can now buy it in the UK – but with a twist.

Augmented reality devices aren't quite consumer friendly yet and the company is offering its version to businesses and developers only.

The HoloLens is also incredibly expensive. For instance, the HTC Vive, the most expensive mainstream VR headset on the market, costs a fairly hefty £759. Microsoft's HoloLens will set developers back £2,719, while the full commercial suite more than £4,500.

How does it work?

The HoloLens is a wireless device – users aren't tethered to any PCs or external processors and all of the hardware is located inside the visor and headband.

There's an onboard GPU, CPU and a holographic processor unit, which work together with an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and "environment understanding sensors" to project holograph-like pictures on to the visor. These images can be interacted with through touch, gestures and voice.

Who will use it?

Microsoft has showcased gaming on the HoloLens in the past, but the company is keen to pitch it as a vital business tool for now. Wired says it’s only really being tested and used by certain companies and developers.

Engineers from elevator firm ThyssenKrupp use the lenses while fixing lifts, where it provides hands-free, virtual instructions in tricky places to work. Nasa has also been using the HoloLens in its offices and even onboard the International Space Station.

The tech still has some way to go before it becomes affordable and useful around the house. But if you're interested, it's available to buy now and will be in your hands in November.

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