I Bet My Life: Microsoft HoloLens perfectly targets its core competency

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
Microsoft's ability to leverage the tech media's credulity is weakening, as is evident from the emerging skepticism of its ability to deliver upon its latest product demonstration: HoloLens.

HoloLens
Image courtesy of The Verge

A show in need of a star

Without introducing HoloLens, Microsoft's post-CES product event--which droned on for two hours and twenty minutes--would have had nothing to show but a series of reminders that it is working on products that are increasingly irrelevant.

By way of comparison, Apple's last event to exceed two hours introduced iOS 8, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple Pay, Apple Watch, a performance by U2 and another 15 minutes to spare.

Apart from HoloLens, Microsoft showed off another overview of Windows 10, demonstrating a doubled-down commitment (if slightly backpedaled) to the colorful, Live Tile user interface that the market has consistently, stridently rejected, first on the Zune, then on Windows Phones 7 and 8, Windows 7 and 8, Windows RT and Surface hybrids.

Even people who love Windows hate Metro, making it bizarre to perpetually feature as the lynchpin of the last three editions of Windows. It is however unique to Microsoft.

That can't be said of the company's other Windows features highlighted at the event: ostensibly free OS updates, a standards compliant web browser with Safari Reader, Office running on a mobile device, third party apps that run on a mobile device, AirPlay wireless distribution and Siri.

These weren't even new features for iOS 7 back in 2013, but they're coming "later this year" to Windows PCs--with the exception of Surface RT users (you know, the ones Microsoft spent over $1 billion advertising as a good dance partner).



There was also Surface Hub, a rebranding of the Perceptive Pixel touchscreens Microsoft acquired back in 2012. It used to be that Microsoft changed the name of its failed products to divorce itself from their bad reputations (Web TV to Microsoft TV to Ultimate TV; MSN to Windows Live to Bing; Windows Mobile to Windows Phone to now just Windows).

Now it just reuses "Surface" over and over again, despite a hat trick of incredibly spectacular flops dating back to 2007's "big ass table" Surface.

Microsoft's wildly innovative HoloLens

In an effort to incite some fresh excitement, Microsoft demonstrated that it could still release standards-compliant vaporware in the form of HoloLens.

It's sort of like the Surface RT, but rather than being a copy of iPad, it's an amalgamation of products that aren't from Apple: a cross between Google Glass and Facebook Oculus Rift, paired with the same augmented reality games and visualizations that PrimeSense showed off two years ago (below), before Apple acquired the company in late 2013.



Last summer, itSeez3D shipped a free app for iPads paired with a Occipital Structure Sensor, and it can already do the sort of 3D modeling that Microsoft essentially claimed credit for inventing, and which its outsourced PR agents at fawned over as if it had never been done before.

The most innovative aspect of HoloLens is that it renames "augmented reality" as "holograms," even though there's not really any holograms involved. A hologram is a 3D image created with the interference and diffraction of light, not a stereoscopic, transparent screen you look through.

HoloPromises

Microsoft is not only broadly claiming credit for lots of stuff that's already been public for years, but it's grossly misrepresenting the potential of the technology. The introduction video (below) starts off associating the phrase "we use it in every aspect of our lives" with Microsoft Band, but that's not the most ridiculous part by far.



It portrays the appearance of augmented reality images (not new) that it calls "the world of holograms" (not true), but the most absurd part is that it depicts virtual wall mounted TVs in the user's line of vision (not something you'd do).

If you're going to walk around your house with goggles on, you'll want to take full advantage of all the pixels on those tiny screens to see whatever TV image you're trying to watch, not reduce the viewable image down to a box that virtually obscures only the part of the wall you have free to virtually mount a TV.

Similarly, when you want to watch a web video on your phone, you don't want it to play inside of a tiny box on the screen, just because that's what you might do on a PC. You'd generally want it to use the whole screen to show you as much detail of the video as possible. The virtual TV in Microsoft's demo would be like watching a tiny video taking up one square inch of your phone's available resolution.

Next up: "new ways to visualize our work," showing a woman designing a motorcycle at a PC CAD workstation, but wearing goggles that create a lower resolution copy of what's on her (presumably professional grade) monitor. More than anything, this demonstrates Microsoft's lack of imagination and understanding of how technology can be applied.

Next, she walks over to a real motorcycle and augments the reality with virtual images she can freely manipulate. This sort of makes some real sense (but its exactly the same sort of thing PrimeSense depicted two years ago). Microsoft is claiming credit for the same augmented reality games and visualizations that PrimeSense showed off two years ago

Next, another woman walks through an office where a Google Glass image of somebody she's FaceTiming somehow mysteriously fails to cause her to walk into one of those desks, breaking her hip and those expensive glasses.

And because Microsoft wants to be involved somehow in this future vision blending Apple's shipping reality and Google failed fantasy product, the visualization involves a 3D representation of file icon documents dragging across the screen like it's Windows 95.

Next there's a cameo of Minecraft (which Microsoft just acquired for youth cred), playing in augmented reality that's again been imagined and depicted in public (much more realistically) for years now. If Microsoft were shipping this, it'd be noteworthy and cool. But it's only dreaming up vaporware at this point. That's neither noteworthy nor cool.



Next there's a combination of more "virtual small TV" combined with FaceTime, using Aqua buttons from Vista appropriated from the OS X 10.0 beta from the year 2000, depicting a guy mansplaining to a woman how to attach a drain trap.

If she can figure out how to use augmented reality headgear from Microsoft, I'm pretty sure she doesn't need a man telling her how two tighten two coupling nuts on a piece of pipe that only has two coupling nuts on it.

Next a man builds a 3D model using air gestures rather than just interacting with a mouse. To imagine how insanely frustrating this would be, use a touchscreen PC with Windows 8.1, where you have to use that touchscreen rather than the pointing device.

Now image that, instead of using a high resolution, precise touchscreen, you have to rely on optical sensors (like the Kinect) coordinated with the motion sensors in your headgear that keep moving your target about.

I know I let you down, didn't I?

The best part of the video is the great song at the end by Imagine Dragons, which perfectly captures the depth of Microsoft's reality-detached, culturally oblivious corporate culture.

The catchy tune and popularity of the recent hit "I Bet My Life" was apparently the only reason Microsoft picked it for its completely unrealistic depiction of what life could be like if only Microsoft could further inject itself in our lives. It certainly wasn't because of the lyrics:

There's references to Microsoft's BSODs and viruses:

I know I took the path that you would never want for me,
I know I let you down, didn't I?


And Internet Explorer:

Now remember when I told you that's the last you'll see of me
Remember when I broke you down to tears,
I know I took the path that you would never want for me,
I gave you hell through all the years


And Mac switchers:

I've been around the world and never in my wildest dreams,
Would I come running home to you


Microsoft's appropriation of everything Apple has ever done:

I've told a million lies but now I tell a single truth,
There's you in everything I do


The Surface, Surface 2 and Surface 3:

Don't tell me that I'm wrong, I've walked that road before


Windows RT:

and left you on your own, and please believe them when they say, that it's left for yesterday


And perhaps Bill Gates

And the records that I've played. Please forgive me for all I've done


That's actually the whole song. It also has a great video:

This all happened before

As Ben Kuchera wrote for Polygon, Microsoft's depiction of HoloLens "leaves many technical questions unanswered, and assumes a number of huge breakthroughs in augmented reality."

He added, "the problem is that Microsoft has only shown that [HoloLens] hardware in a controlled environment, and we have to keep in mind the difference between these first displays of the technology and the reality of what is actually shipped. The best way to show that difference? Let's take a look at Microsoft's own history."

Kuchera pointed to Microsoft's earlier "Project Natal," which back in 2009 promised all sorts of things that the actual Xbox Kinect failed to deliver once it actually reached the market. He concluded, "the video and demos we've seen are Microsoft's best-case scenarios, and that can often be a very long way from real life."



Over the past five years, Microsoft struggled for two years just to port Windows to ARM, and that was (literally) to save its life. And even that didn't work out.

Office, the company's other big business, didn't ship in a modern touchscreen edition for iPad until last year, when the iPad was turning four years old. It's still in beta for Android tablets, and it's hasn't even made it to Microsoft's own tablet platform.

Also, while Apple shipped four new major releases of OS X and five new editions of iOS since 2010, Microsoft has delivered one major new release of Windows for consumers in the same time frame (and it was a flop). The last major update, Windows 7, shipped in 2009 alongside Apple's fifth.

And if we're talking about hardware, Microsoft has done nothing but fail in ways that makes Google look like a savvy hardware maker: Band, Surface, Windows Phone, Xbox One and Kinect do not suggest Microsoft's core competency involves any sort of physical goods. Its corporate name sort of hints at that.

Microsoft's core competency is vaporware.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 258

    The Holo-whatever will simply end up being GoogleGlass2. In terms of functionality, use, and ultimately, success.

  • Reply 2 of 258
    Seems to me their inspiration might have been "Denno Coil".
  • Reply 3 of 258
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    The Holo-whatever will simply end up being GoogleGlass^2. In terms of functionality, use, and ultimately, success.

    I'd have to agree that, on the basis of what has been demonstrated so far, this technology is not new, useful, or even accurately portrayed.
  • Reply 4 of 258
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,387member
    While it might be good for a few things, this seeming desire to manipulate virtual objects with finger motions in the air seems absurd. Try holding your arm up in the air for extended periods of time while moving your fingers - it's actually stressful. Furthermore, accuracy has to be quite poor. Windows laptops that also happen to have a touch screen tend to drive me nuts - if I'm pointing at something on the screen to make a point to someone else, the screen thinks I'm trying to touch something and takes some action that I don't want it to do.

    If working at a screen, aside from fingerprints, I see no advantage to pointing in the air rather than touching the screen - it seems to me that actually touching the screen would be far more accurate.

    And while you have to walk before you can run, do they really think we're going to walk around with gigantic 3D goggles?

    And even that PrimeSense video is kind of weird -- I can't figure out whether the woman is supposed to be real or virtual. When the guy and gal are in the elevator, he's giving her a leer that's quite creepy. While 3D can add something significant to presenting information, it doesn't have to be on everything and they shouldn't be calling it holography unless you can walk around the objects, at least to a certain extent.
  • Reply 5 of 258
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    I guess Microsoft got the memo that wearables was the next big thing, however they apparently missed the second bullet point that the wearable must seamlessly integrate into the users daily routine. Absolutely no one is going to walk around with that thing on their head.

  • Reply 6 of 258
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,635member

    I actually feel quite positive about HoloLens now.  Hearing some people rant about it with decades of pent-up bile makes me like it more.

  • Reply 7 of 258
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

     

    I actually feel quite positive about HoloLens now.  Hearing some people rant about it with decades of pent-up bile makes me like it more.


    Who has 'pent up bile'? About what?

     

    More importantly, it's really kind of sad that your reason for liking/disliking something is your fantasy of others disliking/liking that thing.

  • Reply 8 of 258
    crowley wrote: »
    I actually feel quite positive about HoloLens now.  Hearing some people rant about it with decades of pent-up bile makes me like it more.
    Why the passive aggressive vagueness? Name names and make specific points so that we may properly make a fool out of you.
  • Reply 9 of 258
    I saw the title and knew the author. A quick scan and the length of the article and it was even more obvious. Most of the links going back to articles written by the author to support points made before the end the loses its relevance and yes I give you Dan the man who won't write 1 word when 50 will do.
  • Reply 10 of 258
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Even people bullish on Microsoft thought that HoloLense demo at the end of the event was weird and totally out of place. That's not something you announce at a small event filled with press people. When Apple announce the ?Watch they made sure the Flint Center was filled with Apple employees who worked on the project and were highly enthusiastic about it. So all the media reports and video after the event showed Tim Cook with the raised fist and audience members (aka Apple employees) giving a standing ovation and loudly cheering. At Microsoft event there were awkward pauses and next to no applause as the audience was primarily media. And then at the very end you got Satya Nadella pleading with people to "love Windows". Very odd.

    Honestly I think the HoloLense announcement was nothing more than PR. A way to get the tech media to think Microsoft is cool again. Case in point the Engadget article asking when did Apple become the boring one. http://www.donotlink.com/dbbo And another case in point: The Verge asking Bill Gates to be editor of their site for the month of February. I sometimes get frustrated that Apple doesn't play this game but then I think, no just release great products that speak for themselves and everything will take care of itself.
  • Reply 11 of 258

    The problem is that Microsoft and Google launch crap like this, and throw it out there for developers to do something with it. That doesn't usually work.

     

    As Peter Molyneux pointed out:

     

    Quote:


     

    Molyneux commented, “The bizarre thing is a huge amount of effort and time and money goes into researching the tech, like the Kinect tech and scanning the bodies, and there’s always this one line that hardware manufacturers — whether it be Microsoft or anyone else — say and that’s ‘we can’t wait to see what happens when it gets into the hands of developers.’ Now if Apple had said that when they introduced the iPhone, I don’t think we’d ever end up with the iPhone! What really should happen is that they put a similar amount of money into researching just awesome real world applications that you’ll really use and that work robustly and smoothly and delightfully.

    “They should spend as much money doing that rather than just on hardware tech and saying, ‘Okay developers, we’ll leave it to you.’ If you look at the cases where technology has worked well — touch is one of those, and Wii Sports and motion control; Nintendo didn’t introduce motion control until they had Wii Sports. You weren’t just playing a few demos. I just hope that for the Holo stuff that they really choose an application and make that sing.”




     

    Microsoft doesn't have an application for this. Yes, they showed Netflix, but how does that make the Netflix experience better? How does it make Minecraft better? Because the iPhone made every experience better than anything else on the market. Browsing was better, phone calls were better, music was better (especially once the iTunes WiFi Music Store was introduced)...HoloLens is a solution in search of a problem.

  • Reply 12 of 258
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    Oh boy ... I loved that! Totally awesome. Superbly written essay explaining why Microsoft are rapidly sliding down the slippery slope to join all the other has beens. Tech karma is what it is. I hope Crowley enjoys his 'Hollow' gadget. LOL
  • Reply 13 of 258
    lwiolwio Posts: 80member
    Someone at MS has been watching cgi movies and thinks it's real.
  • Reply 14 of 258
    Sadly, Microsoft has become the master of ineptitude in recent years. They appear to be desperately grasping for the path back to relevance but clearly they have not yet found it.

    This, IMO, is a total lack of vision, passion and leadership at the top. I can recall Apple was struggling with these same problems back when Guy and John were at the helm of Apple.

    Some people rise to the top by being very effective managers but lack the vision to be great leaders. This seems to be the current malady at Microsoft. They have grown to become mostly a massive marketing organization. I believe if you surveyed a large sample of IT directors and asked if they thought Microsoft was innovative you would get a resounding, No. A sad waste of talent in Redmond.
  • Reply 15 of 258
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member

    ..HoloLens is a solution in search of a problem.

    Should be renamed ZuneLens maybe? :D
  • Reply 16 of 258
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,635member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacVicta View Post





    Why the passive aggressive vagueness? Name names and make specific points so that we may properly make a fool out of you.



    What was vague?  I though I was pretty clear, the article author wrote a hit piece on unreleased technology where he offered nothing but spurious speculations on his own interpretations of the technologies uses, and a series of sarcastic asides.  Who cares about the history of things named Surface?  What does that matter?  Actually, while we're there, how did the Surface RT "copy" the iPad in any meaningful sense?

     

    Other notes, in order:

    - there was no Metro interface on Windows 7 - inaccuracy

    - It's not called Metro - inaccuracy

    - "Even people who love Windows hate Metro" - generalisation

    the list of features Apple announced at their conference - irrelevant

    - "ostensibly free OS updates" - Microsoft basically did announce this.

    - aforementioned Surface naming - who cares?

    - Apple changed the name of failed products too - iTools, .Mac, MobileMe

    - What's bad about standard-compliant?

    ?- Calling something vapourware the day after it was announced is a bit premature.  It's pre-announced, just like the ?Watch is, just like the iPhone was.

    - Apple were so clever in buying PrimeSense and then doing... wait, what was it they did with it again?

    - Omigosh, Iseez3D, that breakthrough, massively popular product! 

    - Holo-pedantry

    - Pretty sure that wasn't FaceTime, and that videochat exists outside of, and predates, FaceTime

    - "not something you'd do" - I might.  I might not want the TV show to be constantly in my frame of view, I might momentarily want to do something else.  Other use cases exist.

    - "Similarly, when you want to watch a web video ... You'd generally want it to use the whole screen" - Maybe.  Maybe I wouldn't want the entirety of my vision to be taken up with another person, when I could be doing something else at the same time.

    ?- Oh my god, I'm so bored of this polemic already and I'm not even halfway through.  Is that enough?

     

    Oh, and Dan, sorry "Corrections" (seriously, still?), disagreeing with you does not make me a contrarian.  I would've thought you of all people would be embracing the word given how you like to adopt this "truth-saying rebel commentator" standpoint.  Contrary to you perhaps, but that's because your wear your bias like a Miss America sash.

     

     

     

     

    P.S. As I think I implied, I'm not won over by HoloLens.  I think there are interesting things that could be done with it, but Microsoft will have to do a better job of showing them off.  That doesn't mean that untempered vitriol like DED's is useful in any way.  Besides which, how is this article even relevant on this site?  What Apple product is this competing with? 

  • Reply 17 of 258
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,777member
    Quote:



    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    Even people bullish on Microsoft thought that HoloLense demo at the end of the event was weird and totally out of place. That's not something you announce at a small event filled with press people. When Apple announce the ?Watch they made sure the Flint Center was filled with Apple employees who worked on the project and were highly enthusiastic about it. So all the media reports and video after the event showed Tim Cook with the raised fist and audience members (aka Apple employees) giving a standing ovation and loudly cheering. At Microsoft event there were awkward pauses and next to no applause as the audience was primarily media. And then at the very end you got Satya Nadella pleading with people to "love Windows". Very odd.



    Honestly I think the HoloLense announcement was nothing more than PR. A way to get the tech media to think Microsoft is cool again. Case in point the Engadget article asking when did Apple become the boring one. http://www.donotlink.com/dbbo And another case in point: The Verge asking Bill Gates to be editor of their site for the month of February. I sometimes get frustrated that Apple doesn't play this game but then I think, no just release great products that speak for themselves and everything will take care of itself.

    "Honestly I think the HoloLense announcement was nothing more than PR. A way to get the tech media to think Microsoft is cool again."

     

    And it worked.  The press is still talking about MS. MS accomplished what they set out to do.  They are leading the conversation.

     

    "I sometimes get frustrated that Apple doesn't play this game but then I think, no just release great products that speak for themselves and everything will take care of itself."

     

    That works in an ideal world.  But in a media driven world you need to play the game or get shut out of the conversation.  Like it or hate it, that's the way the ball bounces.

  • Reply 18 of 258
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,635member
    Quote:



    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    Honestly I think the HoloLense announcement was nothing more than PR. A way to get the tech media to think Microsoft is cool again... I sometimes get frustrated that Apple doesn't play this game but then I think, no just release great products that speak for themselves and everything will take care of itself.

    Apple don't play the PR game?  Are you kidding?

  • Reply 19 of 258
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,777member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

     



    What was vague?  I though I was pretty clear, the article author wrote a hit piece on unreleased technology where he offered nothing but spurious speculations on his own interpretations of the technologies uses, and a series of sarcastic asides.  Who cares about the history of things named Surface?  What does that matter?  Actually, while we're there, how did the Surface RT "copy" the iPad in any meaningful sense?

     

    Other notes, in order:

    - there was no Metro interface on Windows 7 - inaccuracy

    - It's not called Metro - inaccuracy

    - "Even people who love Windows hate Metro" - generalisation

    the list of features Apple announced at their conference - irrelevant

    - "ostensibly free OS updates" - Microsoft basically did announce this.

    - aforementioned Surface naming - who cares?

    - Apple changed the name of failed products too - iTools, .Mac, MobileMe

    - What's bad about standard-compliant?

    ?- Calling something vapourware the day after it was announced is a bit premature.  It's pre-announced, just like the ?Watch is, just like the iPhone was.

    - Apple were so clever in buying PrimeSense and then doing... wait, what was it they did with it again?

    - Omigosh, Iseez3D, that breakthrough, massively popular product! 

    - Holo-pedantry

    - Pretty sure that wasn't FaceTime, and that videochat exists outside of, and predates, FaceTime

    - "not something you'd do" - I might.  I might not want the TV show to be constantly in my frame of view, I might momentarily want to do something else.  Other use cases exist.

    - "Similarly, when you want to watch a web video ... You'd generally want it to use the whole screen" - Maybe.  Maybe I wouldn't want the entirety of my vision to be taken up with another person, when I could be doing something else at the same time.

    ?- Oh my god, I'm so bored of this polemic already and I'm not even halfway through.  Is that enough?

     

    Oh, and Dan, sorry "Corrections" (seriously, still?), disagreeing with you does not make me a contrarian.  I would've thought you of all people would be embracing the word given how you like to adopt this "truth-saying rebel commentator" standpoint.  Contrary to you perhaps, but that's because your wear your bias like a Miss America sash.

     

     

     

     

    P.S. As I think I implied, I'm not won over by HoloLens.  I think there are interesting things that could be done with it, but Microsoft will have to do a better job of showing them off.  That doesn't mean that untempered vitriol like DED's is useful in any way.  Besides which, how is this article even relevant on this site?  What Apple product is this competing with? 


    "What Apple product is this competing with? "

     

    None, but then why does it have to?  HoloLens, and technologies / technology products like it, represent the future of digital interaction. Give it 5 years.

  • Reply 20 of 258

    They should call it "Holo-Dreck".

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