Thursday, March 1, 2018

Holoportation is still on Microsoft's mixed-reality radar



Remember this one from mid-2016? It showed a world where execs wearing augmented reality devices like the HoloLens and virtual-reality headsets could teleport from their remote locations and work together, side-by-side, virtually. This scenario is Microsoft's ultimate manifestation of what officials have been calling "mixed reality."

Alex Kipman, the Microsoft Technical Fellow heading up the company's HoloLens and mixed-reality (MR) work, is predicting that 2018 will be the year when these kinds of scenarios move from dreams to reality.

In a February 20 predictions blog post, Kipman said Microsoft would make advances on three fronts in 2018: MR + AI; AR + VR; and immersive communication.

A lot of this is checking off the latest hot topics on the Microsoft buzzword-bingo scorecard. Intelligent cloud/intelligent edge, "mixed reality cloud," "transcending time and space" -- just another day in Redmond...

Microsoft already announced the next version of the HoloLens (believed to be a late 2018 or 2019 deliverable) will include an AI co-processor for improving its ability to process data-intensive tasks locally. And officials continue to talk up the shared Windows 10 core on HoloLens and mixed-reality devices as enabling the cross-device communication scenarios execs have envisioned.

The part I'm most interested here is how Microsoft delivers on the holoportation/teleportation piece of its AR/MR scenarios.

Some may recall that Microsoft Research had made substantial investments in holoportation, actually showing off several proof-of-concepts in this space.

But in mid-2016, the bulk of the researchers working on holoportation at Microsoft left the company to form a stealth startup called PerceptiveIO. Just recently, the PerceptiveIO site and Twitter accounts went dark with no explanation. (A video showcasing PerceptiveIO's hand-tracking work was posted to YouTube in late January this year, as noted by Next Reality News.) Those working for the startup still list themselves as part of PerceptiveIO in their LinkedIn profiles.

(There have been some claims that the PerceptiveIO team members are now working at Google, as noted by "The Walking Cat" on Twitter, but I haven't been able to validate that.)

In November 2016, Microsoft posted a video of some "mobile holoportation" work in which its remaining researchers were engaged, which involved holoporting someone riding in a car into another scenario while the car was moving. Since that video, I've not heard anything more/new about Microsoft's work in the holoportation space.

Last year, Microsoft bought AltSpaceVR, a "social virtual reality" vendor. This acquisition seems to be the cornerstone of the "immersive communications" component of Microsoft's MR strategy to which Kipman refers in his blog post. What AltSpaceVR does is similar in some ways to the holoportation capabilities which Microsoft showcased over the past few years, so maybe this is the new way Microsoft intends to try to reach that end goal (to which it seemingly now refers to as "teleportation.")

It will be interesting to see which vendor ends up finding a way to commercialize the holoportation concept first and how each goes about it. With Google I/O and Build 2018 happening the same week in May, maybe we'll see some dueling holoportation demos.




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