Augmented reality may have had a very short period of hype on mobile devices, but may get a new lease on life with Microsoft's HoloLens. AR might be fun for games but Microsoft , one of AR's current biggest advocates, is trying to show how the technology can be harnessed for more than just entertainment. Like education and research, for example. That might be the key motivation behind Galaxy Explorer, one of the AR projects being developed by Microsoft's HoloLens team. And now that team is giving a few peeks at the prototype.
If you think of Galaxy Explorer as a glorified AR version of an interactive content from a digital encyclopedia, you might be partly right. But while it is that, it is also more. For the dev team, it is also a way to go through the needs and nuances of a proper AR experience. And what non-game application could be more breathtaking and more apt than a tour of outer space?
Seeing planets and galaxies in AR is one thing, but part of the promise of AR is being able to interact with those objects almost as naturally as we do real-world physical ones. We might still be a few years away from that, but the HoloLens team has came up with some ideas on implementing gaze, gestures, and voice controls. For example, a gaze at a planet followed by a hand action can reveal the planet's core and layers.
Incorporating audio into the AR experience is also a bit of a puzzle, considering AR is an even more visual experience considered to something like VR. Using both audio and visuals to relay information or cues like, for example, transitions, is something that the dev team is also working on.
While many tech companies are currently focused on virtual reality, or at least a blend of VR and AR, augmented reality does have its own distinct appeal and advantages that lend itself more easily towards more serious applications, like education and productivity. In short, an almost perfect match for Microsoft.