Microsoft offering free holoLens kits and grant money to spur university research

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Audiences were wowed at this year’s E3 when Microsoft touted holographic versions of Minecraft and Halo made possible by the Hololens-augmented reality headset. Before that, the firm’s productivity-centric demonstration at BUILD 2015 proved that the hardware could be useful outside of the entertainment space.

Now Microsoft is targeting academia with its emerging technology. Dubbed the Academic Research Request for Proposals, Microsoft plans to present five universities or educational institutions with $100,000 and two HoloLens kits each. While Microsoft itself of course intends to determine the potential research value of the HoloLens, it has listed a few specific points of interest on the HoloLens for Research website.

  • Data visualization

    • Example: Using mixed reality to make large data sets easier to navigate and understand.
  • Evolution of pedagogy in STEM, medical, and design education

    • Example: Using existing 3D assets or new 3D assets for high-value training (e.g., interactive 3D models for medical training).
  • Future of communication and distributed collaboration

    • Examples: Remote training and support, first-responder emergency management, and virtual conferences
  • Interactive art and experimental media

    • Examples: Narrative storytelling, new forms of artistic expression, interactive journalism
  • Psychology-related topics

    • Examples: Human perception and human-computer interaction
  • Solving difficult problems and contributing new insights that are specific to the applicant’s field 

For those interested in applying, it should be noted that a 1 – 3 page proposal must be submitted by 11:30pm PDT on September 5, 2015. The criteria for what’s expected within the proposal has been detailed on the Microsoft Research site. These include a project description, research approach, allotment of funds, and the roles of everyone involved.

Microsoft clarified that the $100,000 in funding would conclude after a year as it’s only meant to initiate project development. The firm is recommending that researchers seek alternative routes for funding in addition to Microsoft’s initial pledge. Any proposals received by Microsoft will be subject to review by a panel of experts and “Microsoft will select the worthiest proposals for funding.”


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