HoloLens, which is no doubt the headliner between the two, is not just a headset. It’s also an API – called Windows Holographic — built by Microsoft to let developers code programs from the HoloLens itself. The company’s announcement that it’s opening Windows Holographic to partners means that they, too, will be able to build devices for its API platform. Anything that’s developed using that API should work as well on partner devices as on the HoloLens itself.
Microsoft demonstrated this with a video. It depicted a designer using holographic to decorate an empty warehouse. After some trouble, she calls her colleagues to help – one of whom is using an HTC Vive. Despite the different hardware, the Vive owner is able to work alongside her colleagues without issue.
HTC isn’t the only partner. Microsoft has also announced it’s working with Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, HTC, Acer, Asus, CyberPowerPC, Dell, Falcon Northwest, HP, iBuyPower, Lenovo, MSI, and “many others.” Microsoft is now calling Windows “the only mixed reality platform.”
It’s worth remembering this is still all hypothetical. Very hypothetical. The video includes not only HoloLens and Vive owners working together but also a cute AI companion, real-time translation (presented in AR as a speech bubble), and customizable user avatars. None of which exists – yet.
Everyone say hello, to Windows Hello
Windows Holographic isn’t the only API opening up. Microsoft is also loosening its grip on Windows Hello. While it may not be as cool as Holographic, it’s more likely to have an impact on how you use your PC in the near future.
Hello is Microsoft’s authentication API. It can be used to log in to a device in a variety of ways – usually, through biometrics like a fingerprint or facial scan. But it also can be used to unlock one device with another, and that capability is going to be opened to third parties that want to tap into the API.
Put simply, that means you’ll be able to log in automatically when you approach your PC with a wearable. The Nymi Band was used as the example, but in theory it could be almost anything. Fitness bands, smart clothing, even a smartphone.
Aside from these two items, Microsoft repeated earlier announcements from BUILD 2016 at this year’s Computex. The company reminded everyone that the Windows 10 Anniversary update will land soon, that it will include Windows Ink for better stylus input, and that Windows is now installed on over 300 million devices worldwide.