If you have $350 to around $400, you can get a brand-new PlayStation 4 or Xbox One home gaming console. But that’s not enough to get a HoloLens.
Microsoft’s head-mounted augmented reality device is going to cost significantly more than a game system, according to executives at the company (via the New York Times). This will likely also put it beyond the price range of smartphones and closer to something like a powerful laptop. And that makes sense considering the technology packed into the futuristic visor. Microsoft is also doing what it can to position the HoloLens as a next-gen computing device that has the potential to change the way we interact with software. If the price of a HoloLens does go north of $1,000, Microsoft will have to spend much of the time leading up to its release justifying that.
The company has already started that process coming out of its latest Build Developer Conference, which took place this week in San Franciscol It showed off the device in a live onstage demonstration, and it does look like the next generation of computing.
But Microsoft doesn’t have the reputation of Apple — at least when it comes to hardware outside of gaming. The company’s Windows-based Surface tablets only started to get truly great reviews with the latest iterations, and many people are just as likely going to remember Microsoft failures like the Zune, it’s answer to the iPod.
The Windows corporation is approaching the HoloLens from every angle already. That includes spending $2.5 billion on developer Mojang and the phenomenally popular block-building game Minecraft to have a piece of entertainment that can redefine entertainment on the new device. It also includes bringing out an engineer to explain all the magical components built into the HoloLens.
“Our vision for holographic computing is to transform the world with holograms,” Microsoft corporate vice president of next-gen devices Todd Holmdahl wrote in a blog post. “[By] seamlessly connecting the digital world with real life. With the ability to design and shape holograms, you will have a new medium to express your creativity, a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more effective way to visualize your work and share ideas.”
Holmdahl went on to emphasize how this new head-mounted display is untethered, which means it has no wires connecting it to a computer. That makes it very different from the top-of-the-line virtual-reality visors like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which both require a connection to a PC. More important, this means HoloLens includes all the computing equipment it needs to operate apps and Windows 10 inside of its own casing.
Microsoft designed and built many of the specialized sensors and processors that are in HoloLens, but Holmdahl says it’s the way they work together that makes it seem magical.
“Like the way the optical system works in lock-step with the advanced sensors, or the way the holographic processing unit makes light work of large amounts of data per second,” he wrote. “They all work together to enable holographic computing natively with no markers, no external cameras, no wires, no phone required, and no connection to a PC needed — doing a whole host of things that are, in reality, very difficult and technically complex — turning what was once science fiction into science fact.”
For people that understand how computers work, it’s easy to understand that an all-encompassing system like this would cost a lot of money. This early messaging is how Microsoft is trying to educate consumers of that as well. That’s especially important considering HoloLens is still something that many people aren’t going to believe until they try it for themselves.