Finally Microsoft has shown great commitment to the future of computing, after seven years of hard work Microsoft aim to completely change the way we interact with technology, using a fantastic new device called HoloLens.
Actually this is the next step in augmented reality, an interesting attempt to create a new type of graphical interface that blurs the lines between the real and the virtual, allowing the user to create and manipulate using gestures with their hands, objects that only can be seen through this device.
But as cool as it may sound it is impossible not to think of how strange, coarse, clumsy, awkward and unnatural a person may look with these HoloLens glasses on. It is also very strange to see other people interact with virtual elements that are not really there. Nor would I feel comfortable moving my hands in the air around people I do not know.
Meanwhile Apple is about to launch a device that you wear on your wrist, the Apple Watch. It will be small, practically and unnoticed, its first version will almost certainly have more constraints that we would like but with all the pretensions of becoming a highly personal device that eliminates the boundaries between physical objects and software.
During their presentations, both Microsoft and Apple have spoken, in their own way, two fundamentals to the future of computing concepts:
Technology has to be invisible
The need to eliminate boundaries between real and virtual is without a doubt the next step of computing technology. These concepts have become particularly important with the fact that wearable computing is becoming increasingly a feasible possibility. Google went out with the first example of such technology with their now failed project Google Glass.
But the way Microsoft with HoloLens or Google with Google Glass have addressed their attempts to make the technology invisible and to blur boundaries between physical objects and the virtual reality are radically different compared to Apple, in both philosophical and commercial level.
Future science fiction that have impacted on our society
On the one hand Minority Report, which shows a graphical interface that works through grand gestures and arm movements using a wearable (in this case gloves with lights on fingers) to manipulate a virtual screen (semi-transparent). Well in reality working with such technology you will end up with serious and constant pain of arms of the need to move all the time things as simple as browsing photos between folders and open them.
In the other hand a GUI that actually interact via voice with an extremely intelligent "virtual assistant" with apparent ability to feel, transmit and do feel emotions would create a more effective and close link between the user and technology. people should have virtually no interaction with objects, except in individual cases, everything works with a small atrial always active, whereby the GUI can hear the voice of our commands. The result is a highly connected society, with such effective technology the society would be please to use it in a daily life. but with an eye on reality, not on a touch screen.
Google Glass or HoloLens are near the future of computing proposed by Minority Report, which make dramatic effect much needed in science fiction of Hollywood, but unfortunately still impractical and strange to the real world.
Apple understands this and that why almost all its devices are disappearing, giving prominence to the information that we need to interact. Without losing sight of fashion sense, It got to look good, and not feel strange, but above all, simplicity and effectiveness interacting with technology.
It is possible that in dramatic terms, HoloLens have greater short term success, but minimal or no impact on society, just as happened with Google Glass. Yes, it may be a cool technology to show around and get some public attention. But I do not think it goes far beyond that. At least not in its current iteration. That's why the project of Google Glass failed, because once the initial excitement disappeared, it was simply no advantage of walking around in the street like a star wars figure. It simply looks ridicule.
The reality is that people look for devices that make their life easier, allowing them to have fun and be online, a device that shorten the distance between themselves and technology. That's why a smartphone, seen from the front, 97% and 3% screen edges, becoming smaller. That's why frames of televisions have disappeared, it is why the design of laptops are increasingly becoming simpler. Technology should never feel like technology and in the race of invisibility, Apple is ahead.