HoloLens visionary Alex Kipman discusses some of the nuts and bolts behind the futuristic tech

Kareem Anderson

Image Credit: Channel 9

We’re still sifting through the truckload of Microsoft news that has dropped on our doorstep over the past couple of weeks. From detailed info about the drafting process for the Microsoft Edge browser to the specifics of porting Android and iOS code, each day brings more clarity about Microsoft’s overall plan. Each day we’re uncovering more and more about Windows, Microsoft Edge browser, Windows identification processes, Universal Apps, and code porting. However, some of Microsoft’s other projects remain a bit murky when it comes to details.

If you were not in attendance, there was an auspicious void in detailed news when it came to Xbox, HoloLens, and to a certain degree Windows Phone. Wit the sessions finally wrapped up, we’re finally starting to hear a bit more about missing Xbox and Windows 10 integration as well the show-stopping HoloLens project. As for Windows Phone, I suppose we’ll have to keep an eye out for bread crumbs from Gabe. During an interview at //Build/ 2015, Seth Juarez sat down with HoloLens visionary Alex Kipman to discuss some of the nuts and bolts behind the futuristic tech. Specifically, the two sat and chatted about what developers could do to prepare themselves for the platform as well as how HoloLens fits into the overarching vision of Microsoft.

For interested developers, Kipman suggests “Just start getting to know how to develop for, essentially, mobile 3D development.” Kipman clarifies by noting that part of the developer journey for HoloLens was to offer tools that developers were familiar with and already skilled at. During the informal chat, Kipman fielded some questions regarding Windows 10, application and sensor support for HoloLens. According to Kipman, developers can get a head start on familiarizing themselves with HoloLens by looking at the API support in Windows 10. All of the API present in Windows 10 will find themselves in HoloLens as well. The details about how present apps will appear in HoloLens was also addressed. Aside from the specifically tailored Skype app, most non-native apps will appear in 2D windows that can be adjusted if developers enable that functionality. What’s encouraging is that once developers get acquainted with the Windows Holographic platform, apps can become just as immersive as the Skype tutorial or Mars demo that have been presented at various conferences. In the discussion, Kipman also details the in-context experiences two or more people can have using HoloLens. From avatars for spatial recognition to experiencing persistent shared environments, HoloLens will offer various immersive environments and experiences for multiple users across wide ranging areas.

When it comes to sensors and communication, Kipman was asked about Kinect as well as Cortana integration. According to Kipman, “you will be able to interact, through speech, through Cortana on HoloLens much like you do on your desktop. Much like you do on your phone and much like you do (not with Cortana) but with speech on Xbox. The same speech engine and speech APIs will cross all of our devices, HoloLens included.” While developers will not have access to all the sensors like with prior Kinect SDKs, developers will have access to quite a few and special a feature called Windows Hello alongside specific gesture APIs for consistency.

A few other details were discussed, like HoloLens hosting custom 2K and 4K blended camera set-ups, as well as giving developers access to the Spatial mapping sensors on HoloLens. HoloLens users will also be able to take videos and still images of what’s being overlayed as well, similar to the Skype demo illustrated in January’s reveal. Kipman’s main emphasis was that learning Windows 10 is the key to the development of not only HoloLens but most Microsoft products coming out in the near future. “Its one of the beautiful things with Windows 10. Windows 10 has taken a huge step forward in terms of being able to consolidate all of our different device endpoints in Windows in one API surface area. With one universal store. So as a developer, I can immediately target any number of devices with the same binary,” Kipman says.