Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Surface Hub and HoloLens: Changing the World With Windows 10

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At the Windows 10 preview today Microsoft showcased two new hardware products: the biggest all-in-one PC in history, called Surface Hub, and Microsoft HoloLens, backed by HoloCreator and a unique holographic processor. This last is actually a head-mounted wearable computer with more power than anything we have yet seen in a portable device. It has a voice and gesture interface and the ability to change the world we see. Both of these devices have some interesting potential in the enterprise, and I’d like to focus on that this week.

Surface Hub

This is a very unique piece of hardware in that even the TV display panel was designed specifically for this device. This was needed to assure that response time was fast enough, that the image was close enough to the surface of the display to feel like a whiteboard, and that the resolution was high enough that it didn’t annoy the presenter. The display is surrounded by two speakers and two switchable cameras that allow for a teleconferencing experience that should be unmatched in the market.

To assure security, presentation material that is brought into the meeting stays on the hardware that brought it in—be it tablet, phone or PC. These can be connected via cable or Miracast wirelessly. As with other video conferencing units, the folks in the room can see the remote people, but the remote folks can actually better see a blend of the presenter and the remote audience. However, were it me, I’d likely add a third camera in the back of the room so the remote folks could also get a view more similar to those in the room. Since this is a PC, adding remote cameras or microphones or speakers is relatively easy, and with three cameras, the remote folks might actually get a better experience than those actually in the room because they can see the presenter’s face regardless of where the presenter is facing, while those in the audience will often get the presenter’s back.

As you would expect, the presentation can be saved and then later shared or streamed for others.

Prices haven’t been worked out, but their earlier product cost around $7,500 for the 55-inch implementation and around $22K for the 85-inch implementation. Surface Hub is expected to fall somewhere in that range— far lower than any other high-quality video conferencing system in its class.


The far bigger offering at today’s event was HoloLens. This comes across as the biggest potential game changer since Apple created the Apple II and made personal computing real. It is actually a rather amazing device in that it is a full wireless head-mounted holographic computer—the first of its kind. This is only version 1 and yet it will be able to, in very high resolution, render holographic images against real objects at accurate scale and animate them.

This has the ability to allow architects to do building walkthroughs while buildings are being built and immediately see unplanned variances real time, or to allow their customers to see things that aren’t working at final scale before they are built, avoiding expensive change orders. Car customers could look at one car in a showroom and dynamically change colors, options, finishes, and materials—seeing in real time what works for them.

You could put virtual windows in walls, and using an outdoor camera decide where or if you wanted a window in a wall. Using the same technology, security guards could look into rooms they were passing without having to open a door and potentially compromise the security of the people they are there to protect. These same guards could see the actual picture of folks passing them by and catch people trying to sneak in with someone else’s key card real time.

If you wanted to go back and visit your hometown and see it the way it was when you grew up (something many of us cannot do now), you could use this technology to do that. And that same time-machine capability could be used to turn back the clock on buildings to find hidden rooms, locate where power or water was run or just see the evolution of the change to determine if there are any unseen safety hazards.

When tied to telepresence robots, people could explore remote locations, including Mars (which was actually demonstrated) without getting on a plane. Experts can work with on-site technicians as if they were there without getting on a plane, increasing both the efficiency of these experts and the potential quality of their personal lives.

I’m just touching the tip of this iceberg. I truly doubt Microsoft fully realizes how disruptive this could eventually be and what kind of massive potential changes could result.

Wrapping Up: Windows 10

While I focused on the two new hardware products announced today, there are a number of Windows 10 improvements you should be aware of. Most importantly, Windows 10 represents an entirely new development process in Microsoft—one that that integrates the company the way it was back in the Windows 95 days. The firm is more customer-focused and working together like it did when it was young. I believe Windows 10 will be more secure and less annoying, and it is already better loved by the folks testing it and the OEMs than any of the versions I’ve seen since Windows 95. The two biggest business advantages are that it now ranges from phones through PCs with a common code base and it has a security envelop that assures it is never without protection.

In the end, though, I think the big news is that Microsoft is running as a company again, not as a bunch of divisions that didn’t always want to work together. I think that means we are likely to see some pretty amazing things from the firm over the next decade.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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