Michael Goetzman

Microsoft HoloLens, AltspaceVR, & Hobbyists theories.

Microsoft often approaches innovation through technical hobbyists. Competition is thick and who better to extract creative and emerging ideas from than passionate people? Numerous companies could only dream of the success Microsoft has had. Microsoft knows this draws in the best of the best to want to associate with Microsoft’s success. Technical hobbyists often raise the bar of product development and push innovative ideas for free, during nights and weekends. Microsoft has been wise to pull in these enthusiastic innovators through programs like the Microsoft MVP program and on-site “hackaton” competitions. This draws intellectuals to their various polished and fancy locations discussing their products and services. Accordingly,  Microsoft listens and watches these intelligent individuals in order to stay abreast of the dynamic and shifting business environments from the perspectives of emerging talent.

This post gives a brief overview of the Microsoft Corporation and their relationship with hobbyists,  “technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community.“ The exact tagline for the Microsoft MVP program. We dive into the future of AR, VR, & MR and the theories of why Microsoft purchased AltspaceVR. Furthermore, this article theorizes that Microsoft bought AltspaceVR for the purpose of a test environment where hobbyists “play” and build innovative concepts for Microsoft to brainstorm into enterprise tools and usage with a future HoloLens 2 business application that they intend to sell for boatloads of money. Are Hobbyists in AltspaceVR aware of what is happening?

Overview of Microsoft:

Microsoft Corporation, created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, is well known around the world. The organization began as a small organization whose activities introduced the concept of software packages and pursued purchases of these applications that, while originally confronted with some difficulties, became popular.

In 1976, Bill Gates wrote the famous open letter to early personal computer hobbyists.

The organization was highly successful and grew quickly. The rise of personal computer manufacturers on the market accelerated the growth of the company. The company was able to expand its activities, both locally and abroad into new markets. A mere three years after forming Microsoft, they opened their first international office in Japan. By 1984, InfoWorld stated in that Microsoft  “is widely recognized as the most influential company in the microcomputer-software industry. Claiming more than a million installed MS-DOS machines, founder and chairman Bill Gates has decided to certify Microsoft's jump on the rest of the industry by dominating applications, operating systems, peripherals and, most recently, book publishing. Some insiders say Microsoft is attempting to be the IBM of the software industry.”

From that time forward Microsoft targeted the needs of tech-industry consumers. MSDOS, which laid the groundwork for other advanced Operating Systems such as Windows, was a significant development. In parallel to this, in an attempt to increase its competitive edge over fiercely competitive rivalries, the organization relied heavily on hobbyists.

In more modern times, bouncing ideas off these hobbyists became a firm requirement. Microsoft has to be extremely alert to catch and introduce new paradigms in order to meet the ever-evolving economic growth.

As other companies desire to be as competitive as Microsoft, the industry is also became defined by new entrants. They missed out on Mobile and Music with failed products, a shift in the market Microsoft doesn’t want to miss out on again. Microsoft learned their lesson.  Research and Development initiatives now focus on hobbyist innovations. The ability for Microsoft to pull in some of this top talent have made it possible for many new endeavors such as Virtual Reality.

Microsoft purchases AltspaceVR.

In October 2017, AltspaceVR was acquired by Microsoft shortly after AltspaceVR announced they would be shutting down the freemium software.  AltspaceVR is now a Microsoft-owned platform for virtual reality activities. When communicating with avatars, it offers a voice-to-voice, real-time experience with eye-tracking and other abilities. In AltspaceVR, your head and hand gestures shift your avatar. You can also engage in a limited 2D mode.

Many forms of virtual environments are offered by AltspaceVR namely stages for presentations, boardrooms for virtual meetings, and dance floors and virtual worlds for exploring. The user community can create models, interactive objects, scripts, music, virtual activities, and ultimately whole new worlds. These worlds can be both public or private. You can advertise your event as a "featured" event or not have your event mentioned at all. My experience with AltspaceVR has been with potentially running a virtual conference. Could this world offer participants an unique experience connecting with others while speakers are able to project presentations?

Thinking Deeper, Why…did Microsoft purchase AltspaceVR?

In the last decade or so, the main motive of all the big software companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft was to defeat each other in the domain of emerging tech. They have so much money, they throw it nearly every direction to find something that sticks, hoping their recipe can dominate the space. We have seen both successes and failures across the companies in the battles of mobile, cloud ai, and virtual reality.

Microsoft has been working on early prototype products like HoloLens for some time now, becoming more public recently to compete against the experimental Google Glasses. Opportunity arose when AltspaceVR, on the brink of closure due to a lack of funds, showed up for sale and Microsoft purchased it. AltspaceVR raised around fifteen million in a triple round, per Crunchbase. AR and VR technology is anticipated to drive billions of dollars in some spending predictions. This attracts direct competition of Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple.

Microsoft (MSFT) with the help of its HoloLens intends to take advantage of the anticipated growth in AR and VR space in the year, 2016. HoloLens, a full computing platform designed for the newest operating system, Windows 10, is robust connectivity, amusement, and efficiency platform.

The HoloLens is the recognition of an increased reality by Microsoft, which they term "mixed reality." The holograms can be used to display details, blend with real worlds, or even simulate a virtual world with multiple sensors, advanced optical and holographic processing that seamlessly blends with their surroundings.

The HoloLens has a host of optical sensors, with the main downward-facing depth camera for taking hand gestures, and specialized speakers on each side for peripheral environmental understanding, which simulate sound from anywhere in the room. The HoloLens also has multiple microphones, an HD camera, light sensor, and a customized "Holographic Unit" from Microsoft, which appears to be more powerful than normal unit. All of this unites to feel the space of the device in existing rooms, monitor walls and objects in the room, and combine holograms into nearly any environment. There were definitely some limitations such as only one hand worked for input and the awkwardness wearing the device.

Microsoft HoloLens 2

HoloLens2 is the recent updated, new and improved, version of the groundbreaking mixed reality platform with Microsoft head-mounted mounting coming in at $3500. The headset is an autonomous system with an integrated Wi-Fi and an on-board computer that functions as a client for data from the device itself, from the Azure Cloud, or the web in general. This is an almost entirely new device compared to the previous one with more processing capacity, longer battery life, improved sensors, and a few additional characteristics to highlight. There is a wider FOV (visual field) that helps users to see more information and makes the computer more useful for applications that provide loads of information. There are entirely new and much more natural hand movements that encourage the manipulation of material.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft released the HoloLens 2 with amazing demos and a big bet that developers would use the updated device. While Microsoft HoloLens 2 made amazing hardware updates with more comfort, the real benefits emerge from the Azure services and development kits that go with the headset for augmented reality.

Microsoft struggled with getting the HoloLens 2 into the hands of interested parties, taking nearly a year after announcement, likely due to supply chain or quality issues. It has been explained by Microsoft that the HoloLens 2 is a front-line employee business system, and noted improvements including a doubled field of view, incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) software, and direct holographic manipulation, as you might with physical objects. Moreover, everything from the HoloLens 2 adjustment system and the thermal chamber is new on the comfort front. For those having glasses, a flip-up visor makes it stand-out.

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 Plans – My Hypothesis

The Microsoft plan utilizes the HoloLens 2 as a front-end office worker unit for applications including Dynamics Remote Support, Dynamics 365 Layout, and Dynamics Guides. Microsoft said it'll also have an open approach with developers from third parties and also have hooks on Azure services.

Microsoft also has packages that start at $125 per user per month with HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assistance. The headset of Microsoft HoloLens gathers a lot of actual scientific resources from the user and then uses artificial intelligence to interpret them. Movement of the eyes is regulated and the view area is extended. Hand gestures are understood as pointing and pinching and waving. Will that be able to understand the thoughts, emotions, and personality of the user one day? Perhaps even facial recognition hooks into Microsoft’s Linkedin purchase?!

HoloLens was once seen as just a possible method for gaming with the Xbox. However, it is not a game for Microsoft anymore. Microsoft said Windows 10 would be the last operating system for desktops and laptops. What will every business need next?  The help of augmented reality with virtual reality meetings for international business of course! Companies will buy Microsoft HoloLens 2 to enable connectivity between the real world, the virtual world, and the cloud.

Wrapping it up with AltspaceVR & HoloLens 2

Microsoft Company is one of the most successful software companies in this world and it has performed really well over the past years. By purchasing AltspaceVR, Microsoft gets hobbyists building out concepts for the next generation of tools Microsoft is seeking to build into enterprise tools for the Hololens 2. The major software contributors to its success is technology specifically AR, VR, and MR is with AltspaceVR. In short, the above discussion hypothesis that Microsoft bought AltspaceVR for the purpose of a test environment where hobbyists can play and build concepts for Microsoft to brainstorm into business/enterprise use with a future HoloLens 2 business applications that they are selling for boatloads of money.

~Michael Goetzman, Microsoft MVP

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