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article imageWindows Holographic is coming to your Windows 10 PC next year

By James Walker     Aug 17, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft has announced that all Windows 10 PCs will be capable of supporting Windows Holographic mixed reality experiences next year. In partnership with Intel, the company will allow you to run holographic apps on your mainstream computer.
Microsoft made the announcement at Intel's Developer Forum in San Francisco this week. Next year's Redstone 2 update to Windows 10 will introduce the Windows Holographic shell to every PC currently running the operating system. This will turn the millions of Windows 10 devices in use today into machines capable of running mixed reality applications.
The Window Holographic Shell is the component of Windows 10 that allows mixed reality, holographic apps to run on a headset. At present, it is used for Microsoft's HoloLens. It powers the HoloLens' interface, providing a customised version of Windows 10 more suited to mixed reality. It also makes it possible to run Universal Windows apps that have been enhanced with mixed reality features.
By bringing the holographic shell to all Windows 10 PCs, Microsoft will allow consumers to run holographic content on a much broader range of hardware. You'll be able to buy a mixed reality headset that's compatible with Microsoft's Windows Holographic platform and power it from a Windows 10 device you already own. In a demonstration with Intel, Microsoft showed a tiny Intel NUC mini-PC running a holographic experience at 90fps.
Skype for Microsoft HoloLens
Skype for Microsoft HoloLens
The development marks the widening of Microsoft's holographic ambitions. HoloLens is already part of the Universal Windows family but it currently runs its own specialised version of Windows 10. With next year's update, that will change. The holographic platform will be able to run atop a standard Windows 10 installation, enabling Microsoft to push it to the millions of consumer and enterprise PCs already in use.
HoloLens will no longer need its customised Windows version. Because the holographic components will become part of the stock Windows 10 installation, HoloLens will be able to use the same version of Windows as every other device. The only difference will be in the shell it loads once started up.
The Windows "shell" refers to the interface used to interact with your device. On a desktop PC, you get the Windows Explorer shell, which includes things like the taskbar, Start menu and desktop itself. The HoloLens has its own shell that's far more headset-friendly than the small icons and menus of desktop Windows. It supports voice and gesture input and scales appropriately for a headset's display.
Outlook Mail and Calendar for Microsoft HoloLens
Outlook Mail and Calendar for Microsoft HoloLens
With next year's Windows 10 update, this specialist holographic shell will be installed on all Windows 10 PCs. By default, the desktop environment will still be used. The holographic shell's presence allows you to connect a head-mounted display, such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and use the Windows Holographic environment, without attaching any other hardware.
When you connect a compatible device to your PC, everything will "just work." Windows 10 will be able to detect that you've connected a headset to your display port and will launch the holographic shell rather than the desktop environment. The standalone HoloLens approach will no longer be required as every PC will come with Windows Holographic preinstalled.
Microsoft is also working with Intel to build a specification for mixed reality PCs and headsets. It wants to build a "broad range of devices" with its hardware partners that are able to support the Windows Holographic Shell. One of the first headsets will be Intel's own Project Alloy, a wireless device unveiled this week that is built with Windows Holographic in mind.
Microsoft's decision to install Windows Holographic on every Windows 10 PC indicates its commitment to making mixed reality applications mainstream. Using a Windows-powered mixed reality headset will be as simple as connecting it to your existing Windows 10 device, enabling you to run augmented Windows Store apps within the holographic shell.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, windows holographic, Intel
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