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article imageMicrosoft's new camera rig lets you make holographic videos

By James Walker     Feb 13, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has unveiled a new camera system that can be used to take videos of HoloLens holograms. It solves one of HoloLens' biggest problems by making it possible for spectators to watch people interact with the virtual world.
Microsoft detailed the setup, dubbed "Spectator View," in a blog post today. It can be assembled at home using off-the-shelf equipment but expensive kit is required. Essentially, a second HoloLens headset is mounted atop a standard DSLR camera.
Once calibrated correctly and connected to a PC over Wi-Fi, the system can work out the location of holograms in your HoloLens and create a live video feed for a spectator. It uses the data streamed from your HoloLens to render holograms from the perspective of the camera. The holograms are combined with the images from the camera and sent over HDMI to a monitor.
Spectator View transforms HoloLens from being a solitary experience to one where it's possible for spectators to watch as you interact with holograms. Microsoft calls the underlying technology Mixed Reality Capture. It's based on the systems that allow it to demonstrate HoloLens' capabilities on-stage during press briefings.
Although streaming holographic video isn't set to be the next big thing just yet, Spectator View does have significant implications for HoloLens' future. A major inhibitor of growth in virtual and augmented reality is convincing new consumers to try the technology. People who've used VR and AR often say it cannot be described. Spectator View makes it more obvious what you'll see if you buy a headset.
It's not just potential buyers that could benefit either. App developers could demonstrate in-progress features to team members, collaborators and investors, without having to pass around a HoloLens headset. Everyone will be able to participate at once, without waiting for a turn with the device.
Microsoft has already shown Spectator View to some of its HoloLens partners. Initial feedback has been positive with customers commenting that third-person viewing enhances HoloLens' real-world usefulness.
"Showing 3D objects in your physical world is a magical experience that is hard to translate to a 2D monitor," said Michael Hoffman, co-founder of Object Theory. "Spectator View with a stabilization rig makes it possible to really show the 3D nature of mixed reality experienced by a HoloLens user."
Microsoft has open-sourced the technology behind Mixed Reality Capture and published the details needed to build Spectator View on GitHub. If you happen to own two HoloLens headsets and a DSLR camera, you can start experimenting with the system today. The software required is built into HoloLens, letting Spectator View travel anywhere the headset does.
HoloLens itself is still a long way from being sold commercially to consumers. "Thousands" of headsets have already been shipped to developers and partners though, helping Microsoft gauge interest and collect feedback before the eventual public launch. The addition of Mixed Reality Capture could help to sell more people on the tech, evolving it beyond the prototype stage.
More about Microsoft, spectator view, mixed reality capture, hololens, windows holographic
 
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