A glimpse into Microsoft’s bright future

Microsoft HoloLens demo

Microsoft gave the world a glimpse into their future plans with their Windows 10 event on 21 January 2015. We have rounded up the most exciting announcements in one place for you to enjoy:

HoloLens and Windows Holographic

Microsoft now brings holograms to your living room in the form of the HoloLens and Windows Holographic technology. The HoloLens is a wireless augmented reality headset and Windows Holographic is the software system it runs on. With this device the wearer can manipulate and create virtual objects (that only the wearer can see) by placing your hands on the headset itself. The experience of having the HoloLens headset on is not as immersive as virtual reality (like, for example, Oculus Rift) as you can still see real-world objects in between the virtual objects (helpful for avoiding a stubbed toe here and there).

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No additional hardware is needed for it to run as it tracks the wearer’s hand movements to give real-time results. Microsoft says that this device will be useful for gaming as well as remote work collaborations.

Tech journalists were treated to exclusive demonstrations using the HoloLens. They could manipulate Minecraft-like building blocks and use the device to manipulate 3D objects in real-time using simple head movements. Wearers could even make a Skype call using the device in order for the person on the other end to guide them in the process of fixing a light bulb without having to move away from the screen to do so.

Microsoft also collaborated with NASA (the worldwide leader in aeronautics and space) that allowed participants to experience what it is like to walk on Mars. The device lights up an entire room and fills it with true-to-life Mars imagery, making it feel like you are truly walking on the Red Planet.

Early reviews of this new holographic technology have been overwhelmingly positive and it is said that this technology will become available within the same timeframe as Windows 10.

Cortana comes to desktop

Cortana is Microsoft’s intelligent personal voice assistant. The name Cortana comes from a character in the Microsoft video game Halo. You can ask Cortana anything from a list of predefined questions and she will help you. She can, amongst other things, set reminders, take notes, provide you with weather and traffic conditions, or tell you more about historical events. The information Cortana relays is gathered from the Bing search engine.

CortanaHero

Previously Cortana was only available on mobile, but now this digital assistant is also coming to desktop. It will live next to the Start button. It will answer both spoken and typed queries. Alongside the aforementioned features, Cortana helps to search for documents on the PC itself and in OneDrive. It will provide you with web links if needed or help you install new software. Furthermore, it is integrated into the Maps app to remind you where you parked your car, help you book flights, provide meeting notifications and more.

The end of Internet Explorer…

Internet Explorer will soon be replaced with a new browser codenamed Project Spartan. It will have plenty of new features, including:

  • Note-taking mode: webpages can be drawn on with a stylus or comments can be added via a keyboard and then the results are saved to OneNote
  • Clean reading mode: webpages are cleaned up to look like pages from a book for easier reading
  • A syncable reading list: similar to the Pocket app or Safari’s page-saving feature

As expected, Cortana is also built into this new browser and will contextually recognize the information you are searching to provide relevant suggestions. The browser will also be interlinked with most other Microsoft services like OneDrive and OneNote.

Windows 10 makes its appearance

Apart from having redesigned desktop icons, Windows 10 expands the beloved Start button into a full screen view that looks like the old Windows 8.1 tiled home screen.

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An action center has been added for quick access to Wi-Fi options, Bluetooth and so forth. Continuum is one of the new features that allows effortless switching from traditional mouse and keyboard to a tablet screen.

To stay with their vision of making an operating system that compliments both desktop and mobile, Windows 10 is available for phones too. It will look like the old Windows Phone operating system and is tailored to work with screens smaller than 8 inches. Notifications will sync between PC and phone, and Skype will integrate into the messaging app.

All of these new technologies make us look forward to seeing what other exciting developments will come from the Windows camp in the future.