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Is Microsoft’s HoloLens the Future of Computing?

Between Facebook, Google, Sony, and Samsung, it seems like every tech company is getting into the head-mounted display game. Many influential minds think virtual reality is the future of computing. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in his post about buying the company behind the Oculus Rift VR headset, said, “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

Microsoft has thrown its hat in the headset ring, by announcing an upcoming device called the HoloLens, a head-mounted display that offers augmented reality rather than virtual reality. What’s the difference? Most headsets, including the Oculus Rift and Sony’s upcoming Project Morpheus, block out the world and immerse you in a completely new digital environment. HoloLens will be more like Google Glass, in that you can see the real world through the display, but the device can place digital images in your vision.

One application Microsoft showed off was a version of Minecraft that puts the game in the real world. For instance, when you wear HoloLens, a Minecraft world of your creation might sit on the coffee table in front of you. Or, in a more practical example, you could work in a 3D design app that seems to put your designs right in front of you, to be manipulated with a wave of your hands and fingers. Watch the introductory video to get a sense of what Microsoft has in store.

Are virtual reality and augmented reality headsets the wave of the future? That remains to be seen. But a number of big, forward-thinking companies are pouring lots of money into projects to make it a reality. Microsoft says HoloLens may come out as early as this year. It’s an exciting time to be a tech enthusiast.