Microsoft is expanding availability of its existing HoloLens augmented-reality goggles to six more countries next month. Shipments will begin in November. Microsoft first showed off publicly its HoloLens device in January 2015, and shipped HoloLens developer kits in the U.S. and Canada in late March 2016. At first, device availability was limited to developers pre-selected by Microsoft. In August, Microsoft made HoloLens available to anyone in the U.S. and Canada who was willing to pay the 3,000 for the device.
Microsoft is rolling out its mixed-reality headset HoloLens to almost 30 additional countries in Europe. HoloLens will now be available in 39 countries worldwide, including Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Spain, as Microsoft tries to sell businesses on the idea that the headset can support new and better ways of working. Microsoft believes one of the major selling points of the HoloLens for businesses is its ability to let experts remotely aid technicians working in the field more easily, using HoloLens' ability to superimpose digital information in the wearer's field of view. Elevator company ThyssenKrupp has been trialling the use of HoloLens to help engineers carry out maintenance, with HoloLens allowing a remote engineer to both see what the on-site technician can see, via a camera on the HoloLens, and to digitally annotate objects in the technician's vision, for example to highlight components that need fixing. In a trial, an engineer using HoloLens to communicate with a colleague for the first time was able to solve a fault that normally would take two hours -- or even require having another engineer on-site -- in 20 minutes.
Microsoft's HoloLens just got a whole lot more useful. At Build 2018, Microsoft announced a new Remote Assist app that lets users connect with remote experts in mixed reality. In other words, HoloLens is now more collaborative. SEE ALSO: Microsoft plans for a future that isn't anchored by Windows With Remote Assist, Microsoft wants workers to be able to solve problems quicker together, even if they're not physically in the same location. For example, HoloLens users will be able to share photos, video chat, and even annotate what they're seeing with remote experts, and vice versa.
Microsoft might announce the new generation of its mixed reality headset, the HoloLens, at an event later this month. On Monday, Microsoft's Technical Fellow for AI Perception and Mixed Reality in the Cloud (you gotta love Microsoft's job titles), Alex Kipman, published a teaser video for the event, and it sure makes it look like HoloLens 2 is coming. The video, titled "2.24.19 #MWC19" -- the date and tagline for the event held one day before the official start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona -- is quite mysterious. Lumps of silicon are turned into chips, ice cubes melt, optical fibre intertwines -- it's all nice to look at but doesn't really tell us much about the upcoming device. So how do we know the video is about the new HoloLens?
Microsoft first launched HoloLens in 2015 as a gaming-centric consumer product, but so far, very few folks have so much as picked up a Minecraft block with the $3,000 device. HoloLens has been a big success with businesses, allowing designers to visualize digital changes on real-life objects and helping employees do complex tasks or high-tech sales demos. Microsoft says that companies like Ford and Thyssenkrupp have been asking for HoloLens availability in Spain, Sweden and Turkey, where it's currently unavailable. The device has been particularly popular for so-called firstline workers that repair elevators or build cars, for instance. At the same time, it's hands-free and doesn't disrupt normal vision.