HoloLens: Immersive Learning of the Future


January 21, 2015 Microsoft debuted their holographic platform name ‘HoloLens’. This is a rather remarkable piece of technology. HoloLens is a self-contained headset that operates using a special version of Windows 10, aptly named Windows Holographic.

The headset has built-in sensors, various processing units including: CPU, GPU, and a holographic processing unit (HPU), 3D display, battery, and spatial sound. HoloLens doesn’t require and connection to a PC, tablet, smart phone, cords, or wire in order to operate. It uses micro projectors to display the holographic images on the headset’s transparent lens. The transparent lens allows the holograms to be seamlessly integrated into their environment. This technology took 15 years to get to this stage and still isn’t fully developed.  Early efforts of this project is known to millions in the form of Microsoft’s X-Box 360 and X-Box One’s motion sensing accessory the Kinect. Like the Kinect, users uses voice and gestures to navigate the HoloLens, with the addition of gaze.

The Kinect has been a used as a learning tool in both K-12 and higher ed. Looking at HoloLens, I think that it can take learning to even greater heights. If HoloLens receives the proper developer support it can prove to be a ground breaking to for learning. One main advantage that HoloLens has over the Kinect is its mobility. Technically as far as we know this system can be used anywhere, however Microsoft’s focus is at home and work. Schools would fall under the work category, but how can this technology be utilized in an academic setting? It is no question that technology is changing the way we learn, but with the breakthroughs in immersive technology learning is taken to an entirely new level. Seeing as how this piece of technology will probably not be budget friendly for most K-12 schools, it will probably be used more in colleges and universities. Lets disregard any monetary restrictions and look at the how what is possible from what was shown in the video and technical specifications of the headset.

Distance Education (Collaboration)
Skype can be utilized with HoloLens to add another dimension of interaction. One of the major issues with mobile and e-learning is the lack of interaction that face-to-face students receive. With ability to be able to create and manipulate object out of thin area distant learners can get a virtual hands on experience very similar to what face-to-face students experience. HoloLens will give students and teachers the ability to collaborate with each other and experts in various field in a more engaging way. For instance they could work together on a prototype of an object across great distances in real-time, modifying and manipulating an object as a joint effort. Instead of going to the board a student could simply sit at their desk and work a problem for the class to see virtually, and students could take turn adding, editing, or correcting each other all from their seats.

Object Manipulation
From the keynote we saw how HoloLens could be used to create 3D objects in space. These objects could be manipulated in various ways such as resizing, copying, adding color, and designing the object. This could be very useful in engineering courses with special CAD software. In K-12 this could be used in science classes to illustrate things such as environmental changes or effects when something is changed (life cycles, weather, human biology, etc.).

Environment Projection
Want to go to the Rainforest? No problem. With ability to create holographic environments the HoloLens would be a great tool to use to “travel” to exotic places. Teachers could adjust the air to cold or hot temperatures and light incense to help give the holographic environment a more authentic feel. This would be a cost-effective and safe way for students to learn about different places and times.

Take for example Landscape Architect students they could each create their ideal layout for a yard, and save it via image or video. Students could create virtual 3D sculptures and print them out via a 3D printer. Or they could get creative and draw graffiti on walls around campus; maybe it there was a special software the their work could be feature around campus that would allow other students with HoloLens to view it.

There are numerous ways that this technology can be used, but like any hardware it is only as good as the software developed for it. From the early reviews the tech industry has been largely optimistic about the HoloLens. Hopefully this technology upon its release isn’t too futuristic for the general public and fail. Microsoft has stated that it will be released during the life of Windows 10. I am expecting to see it maybe sometime in 2016. Whenever the release date is I look forward to being one of the first to purchase one and explore how it can be utilized in mobile and e-learning.

Credit to Alex Kipman, chief inventor of HoloLens for his vision of this promising piece of technology. For more information on the HoloLens visit http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us?ocid=ASPEN_SEM_bing_&cid=ASPEN_SEM_bing_ .

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