The Future of Virtual Reality: Microsoft HoloLens vs. Oculus Rift

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In this day and age, we find ourselves constantly surrounded by technological innovation that is unparalleled, each day something new and amazing. One of the long-awaited science fiction fantasies of the 21st century, virtual reality has become one of the boldest new promises of the next decade to come. Right now in the future-thinking high tech enthusiast culture, there are two big names in VR that have been getting increased levels of attention, Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens. While the two devices could be classified as the same general type of technology, the reality is that they are two very different devices that will carry out two very different functions.

Oculus began their startup in 2012 with a Kickstarter campaign as an independent company with the goal of creating the first Oculus Rift VR headset. The campaign resulted in the successful raising of $2.5 million, which would be the initial funds for Oculus to develop the Rift. Two years later, Facebook purchased Oculus for $2 billion, and since has gone through various pre-production models of the headset as well as gathered a decent following and degree of publicity. Finally, on May 6th, 2015 Oculus announced the release of a consumer version of the Rift and that they would begin pre-orders in January of 2016. Starting at $600 USD, their consumer model was an improved version of their Crescent Bay Prototype model; it featured per-eye displays running at 90Hz, 360 degree positional tracking, integrated audio, and a heavy focus on being as consumer-friendly as possible. For the Rift to work, it has to be plugged into a Windows PC that will run the software to use the device.

The HoloLens, on the other hand, is a standalone device, perhaps one of the most notable differences, and also possibly one of the device’s greatest advantages. While the Rift requires Windows and a computer, HoloLens essentially is Windows, as a matter of fact, it is a self contained computer running Windows 10; its got its own CPU, GPU, and a new type of processor: an HPU. That’s right, Microsoft actually created a new type of processor for this product. The initial targeting of the HoloLens was announced quite broadly as “within the Windows 10 timeframe,” perhaps a wise choice compared to Oculus having to push the consumer release a few times due to assorted issues. Once a solid date was released, Microsoft said the HoloLens Development edition would be shipping March 30th, 2016 available for the price of $3000 USD. Now, that’s a very large gap between the $600 tag asked by Oculus, so what makes the HoloLens so much more expensive?

HoloLens features an integrated depth sensor, finger-swiping gesture control and a built in microphone. Unlike the Rift, HoloLens will be wireless and self-contained. Unlike the Rift as well, the HoloLens does not actually obstruct your view of the outside world through the lens, more like adds to what you are seeing, like holograms. Back in favor of the Rift, the field of view on the HoloLens is supposed to be significantly smaller than that of the Rift. And then back in favor of the HoloLens once again, because the HoloLens is wireless and allows you to still see the world in front of you, you are not required to be stationary while enjoying the headset, unlike the Rift which suggests you remain seated.

What we have are two revolutionary technologies, doing two equally amazing things; in equally amazing ways. Users of the Rift can except to be fully emerged in whatever their experience be, most likely that of VR gaming, while HoloLens users can expect to interact with the world around them in unison with the experience of the device. Both devices will take us head first into a new generation of how we interact with technologies,

and as of right now its merely a matter of working out the kinks and determining which set does what task most efficiently, and what the consumers enjoy.

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