Hot on the heels of all the Windows 10 announcements come 2 very cool new products from Microsoft. First is the Surface Hub, a smart board on a TV that runs Windows 10. The Surface Hub harkens back to a failed Microsoft product, which was the first to sport the Surface name — an interactive Windows based table filled with sensors that allowed you to do very cool things with the items you sat on it. Now, this table is mounted on a wall and runs a suite of software focused on making meetings better. The new Surface Hub has cameras, microphones, multi-touch sensors, and other “advanced” sensors that help you get your meeting completed. The Surface Hub’s first trick is to become a smart board. Surface Hub runs OneNote and comes with some special pens for writing on the screen just like you would on a whiteboard. Skype is also included and can be used to bring in other people to share and access the whiteboard. The camera and microphones in the Surface Hub allow you to have a full 2 way video conference call in addition to sharing what is on the screen. You can share files from nearby Windows 10 devices, allowing them to be opened, viewed, and shared with everyone in the meeting. Then once the meeting is over you can have the Surface Hub email all the files and whiteboard images automatically to all the meeting participants. Then with a tap, the Surface Hub is reset and ready for the next meeting.
While the Surface Hub was interesting, the HoloLense really stole the show. A new feature of Windows 10 is support for holographic computing. So Microsoft built a set of glasses that can make use of this new holographic computing feature. This isn’t virtual reality though and Microsoft isn’t competing with the likes of the Oculus Rift. The HoloLense glasses project digital items in 3D onto the real world. Microsoft demoed the glasses live, showing someone using a 3D modeling tool to put together a 3d model using their gaze and hand gestures to interact with the holograms. Now this is not like Star Wars where a 3D image is floating in space, but from what I could tell watching the demo wearing the glasses makes it look like these images are right there in front of you, real enough to grab. Microsoft has been working with NASA on this project, allowing scientists to virtually step onto Mars and examine 3D images of the landscape the Mars Rover has sent back. The promo video Microsoft ran showed using the HoloLense to play games that jumped around on your furniture, virtual notes on your refrigerator, Netflix on any open wall, and working in 3D on a concept model of a motorcycle gas tank in 3d superimposed over the real thing. The technology is really amazing, but for all the interaction it brings when using them to communicate they still cut you off from other people who are physically around you. Much like the Google Glass, I think the isolation using this device in a group setting will be a stumbling block for broad consumer adoption. People want to be able to interact together with technology in the same room more than they want to interact with people who are a world away. Devices more like the Surface Hub are likely to have a greater chance at both business and consumer adoption.
The types of technology and innovation that are happening every day astound and thrill me on a regular basis. I look forward to the next new innovation no matter how strange or confusing and try to imagine how it could be used in the real world. These inventions spark the imagination and give others the opportunity to improve on the ideas, leading to new discoveries until we arrive at a point where nothing in science fiction is fiction any more.