Technology

TED 2016: HoloLens unveils 'teleportation' to Mars

Alex Kipman Image copyright TED
Image caption Alex Kipman shared his AR vision with the TED audience

HoloLens creator Alex Kipman has shown off Microsoft's augmented reality technology at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference.

Using a camera hooked up to a HoloLens headset, he was able to "teleport" Nasa scientist Jeff Norris to the TED stage.

Microsoft is due to starting selling HoloLens developer units this spring for $3,000 (£2,000).

Some have questioned whether the technology will appeal to the mass market.

Image copyright TED
Image caption Using a HoloLens on a camera, Mr Kipman shared his digital world with the TED audience

Mr Kipman said that AR would eventually replace the computer, smartphone and laptop screens we currently use.

"We will look back at this decade as being like cavemen in terms of technology," he said.

"Machines are becoming capable of understanding our world and interacting with us."

Virtual meets physical

That, he said, will ultimately lead to a world where the real and the digital are merged seamlessly.

"We will turn a dial and get reality and turn it the other way and get virtual reality."

In his demonstration at TED he showed delegates an other-worldly garden and digital rain before "teleporting" Mr Norris, who appeared to be standing on Mars.

Image copyright TED
Image caption Jeff Norris appeared on the TED stage and on Mars in a projected form

"I'm in three places. I'm in a room across the street, I'm on the TED stage and I am also on Mars," said Mr Norris.

Critics have questioned whether HoloLens will be something that consumers will be prepared to pay for.

"I think we're a good few years away from a compelling consumer AR smart glasses solution which has the desirable content and is cheap enough to drive a broader interest in the technology," said Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst at research firm IHS.

"I see consumer AR as more embryonic than VR and still very much at an experimental stage," he added.

Most activity in AR at the moment is "business-focused using smart glasses for commercial applications," he added.

Image copyright Marla Aufmuth / TED
Image caption The TED audience watched the VR film in unison

VR connection

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been constant themes at this year's TED with a VR theme park being demonstrated, alongside another AR headset from Meta.

Virtual reality film-maker Chris Milk used his TED talk to conduct the world's biggest simultaneous VR experience.

Delegates had earlier been asked to download an app to their smartphones and each of the 1,200-strong TED audience was given a Google Cardboard headset to view a video.

It was a combination of films made by Mr Milk's start-up Vrse - including film shot from a helicopter above New York City and footage from refugee camps.

Mr Milk called VR "the last medium".

"We have just started to scratch the surface of the true power of virtual reality," he said.

"It's not a video game peripheral. It connects humans to other humans in a profound way that I've never seen before in any other form of media - and it can change people's perceptions of each other.

"And that's how I think virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world."

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