Today Microsoft made some surprising announcements about their next generation of hardware and software. While past events surrounding updates for the Windows OS have been forgettable, this year Microsoft threw some exciting news our way.
The most unexpected surprise at today’s event was Microsoft’s HoloLens. While most VR headsets in development are made for gaming and entertainment, the HoloLens is built to augment reality. Instead of immersing the user in a new virtual setting, the device blends interactive CG element with the users’ immediate surroundings. The headset creates this illusion by beaming holographic imagery onto the surface of a transparent visor.
Microsoft envisions the HoloLens transforming the way we work, play, and integrate technology into our everyday lives. Their official video features a man watching holographic television in the kitchen (complete with apps docked on his pantry and a virtual to-do-list tacked onto the fridge), a designer altering the design of a motorcycle with a life-sized rendering superimposed over the real thing, and a user building a house in a version of Minecraft that takes shape around the walls and furniture of his living room.
Another impressive piece of hardware unveiled at the keynote was Microsoft’s Surface Hub. Essentially a giant touch-screen all-in-one desktop, the Surface Hub is an 84-inch 4K display designed for businesses. The device will run Windows 10 and come with large-screen apps ideal for meetings with an emphasis on collaboration and content sharing.
While the announcement of Windows 10 may not have been the most novel part of today’s keynote, the new OS has a few noteworthy features and changes.
The look and feel of Windows 10 will be more uniform across a variety of devices compared to 8.1, but more importantly the usability of key Windows apps across these devices will be universal. The apps will be available to run on PC, tablet, phone, and even Xbox One. Many of these are updated versions of current offerings, but there will be a new Office suite.
Continuum for Convertibles
Windows 10 will combine the best features of the desktop in Windows 7 and apps interface of Windows 8 into one. A new feature for laptop/tablet convertibles, called Continuum, will automatically switch from desktop to touch screen mode depending on whether the device has been docked on the keyboard.
Project Spartan Browser
This new browser has a clean design, built in markup and sharing capabilities, and is completely separate from Internet Explorer. Built around social sharing, Project Spartan browser and has an offline reading mode which will download content off the web to read for later.
Cortana on PC
Cortana, the digital voice assistant, will soon be available on PCs. Like Cortana on Windows Phones, she will follow voice commands to play music, launch apps, search the web for answers, and more.
Xbox One and PC Gaming
With an emphasis on making gaming more social and personal, the new Xbox app will consolidate a gamer’s networks from both the console and PC gaming. This won’t be limited just their friends and achievements- Microsoft plans to deliver a multiplayer experience across devices- connecting players on Xbox One console to those on PC.
Additional features include the ability to stream Xbox One games to any PC or tablet with Windows 10, and Game DVR- allowing users to record, edit, and share gaming moments with friends.
This year’s Microsoft keynote signals some of the most innovative changes coming from the company in years, and we can’t wait to see how the new OS performs. No release date has been confirmed, but the update will be available sometime “later” in 2015 and users on Windows 7 and 8/8.1 will be able to upgrade to the new OS for free within the first year of launch.