Microsoft just took a huge step in the development of HoloLens, its upcoming augmented reality platform.
The company said Monday morning that it will begin shipping the HoloLens Development Edition on March 30. This $3,000 development kit includes a HoloLens headset that developers will use to create software for the platform. While the device is technically available to pre-order beginning today, developers must first go through an application process with Microsoft to actually lay down their credit card info.
The development kit is shipping with a handful of apps to give developers an idea of what the HoloLens is capable of, including a slick version of Skype (seen above) and a game called Young Conker, which stars the Rare character best known for the controversial Nintendo 64 game Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Microsoft first announced HoloLens at a Windows 10 event one year ago, saying it would enable more meaningful computing experiences. With HoloLens, digital images are projected onto real world objects, opening up the possibility of experiences like a version of Minecraft that’s projected onto a nearby table.
While Microsoft is only targeting developers here—a consumer version of HoloLens is “further down the line,” the company said—HTC’s virtual reality headset, the Vive, became available for pre-order for consumers on Monday morning. The $800 device is aimed specifically at gamers—it’s produced in partnership with Valve, the creators of the Steam software distribution platform for PCs—with two dedicated hardware controllers part of the package.
Both the HoloLens Developer Edition and the HTC Vive are going up for pre-order nearly two months after the consumer edition of the Oculus Rift, the Facebook-owned virtual reality headset that’s probably the highest-profile device of the three. (Who could forget that Time magazine cover?) What ties the three devices together, beyond the mere fact that they’re all augmented reality and/or virtual reality headsets, is they potentially represent the next big computing platform after smartphones. The gaming applications for these devices are obvious—I fully expect VR to dominate upcoming video game industry events like GDC and E3—but what’s less obvious are how companies like Lowe’s are using VR to help people design their next kitchen. Extrapolate this to other uses—shopping, healthcare, porn!—and you begin to understand the promise of these headsets.