Microsoft's New Hologram Technology Doesn't Really Make Holograms

microsoft executives testing the hololens


Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, Alex Kipman, and Terry Myerson testing the new HoloLens headsets during Wednesday's Windows 10 event.

Microsoft's new face computer, the HoloLens, was the star of Microsoft's big Windows 10 event Wednesday.

The headset is able to project virtual images on top of the real world. It's supposed to be a brand new computing platform.

During demos, Microsoft repeatedly called the images "holograms."Advertisement

But they're not.

Here's what a hologram is, according to Webster's:

A special kind of picture that is produced by a laser and that looks three-dimensional

In other words, a 3D image that exists in real space. Just like in Star Wars.

And here's how Wired's Jessi Hempel described the HoloLens imagery when she tested it a few months ago: To create Project HoloLens' images, light particles bounce around millions of times in the so-called light engine of the device. Then the photons enter the goggles' two lenses, where they ricochet between layers of blue, green and red glass before they reach the back of your eye.Advertisement

It's more accurate to call the HoloLens augmented reality technology, which means overlaying digital images on top of what you see in the real world. Real holograms don't require you to wear special goggles to see them.

Augmented reality also happens to be the same concept the stealth startup Magic Leap is working on. Magic Leap has a special name for it, cinematic reality, but based on the company's patents and other scattered reports, it sounds like Magic Leap is working on something pretty similar to what Microsoft showed Wednesday with HoloLens.

For example, you'll have to wear a special headset.


That headset can project things on top of the real world, like computing interfaces.

Microsoft's HoloLens works the same way.