Augmented reality and holographic vision has plenty of applications from working with disabilities to working on the space station. But Microsoft’s Hololens is expensive and bulky, and more limited devices like Google Glass have failed outright. But perhaps if top notch hologram power can be squeezed into in smaller frame, the AR revolution will finally arrive. That seems to be what Microsoft is working on.
Researchers at the Washington-state computer giant caution that they’re still in “early days on the journey toward this vision, and there isn’t a clear route to solving all the optical challenges” of a hologram eyepiece. But they’ve been able to solve major hurdles to create sharply focused holograms that can be made by a projector small enough to fit on a traditional glasses frame.
While the promise of holograms that can appear right before your eyes and in full color is obviously appealing, the practicality of the tech depends on the form factor it can fit into. No one really wants to wear a giant helmet with screens hanging in front of their face. “Today’s near-eye displays feature a trade-off between bulkiness and field of view,” researchers say. Holography “is often associated with noisy, low contrast, and mono color imagery, large bench-top form factors, high bandwidth requirements, and expensive computation,” the researchers say at the beginning of their paper, “relegating it to the status of a perpetually ‘future’ technology. “
Microsoft is reportedly planning on releasing its next HoloLens in 2019. That model is bound to be a bit bigger than a pair of glasses, but the tech used to squeeze down holograms into such a small package will certainly come in handy, if not right away, then soon. That perpetual future might be coming sooner than expected.