The key to the success of augmented reality is what it will actually let us do at home or in the workplace and we're already getting glimpses of what we can look forward to.
HoloLens is the most exciting thing to come out of Redmond since forever, and Microsoft's AR device isn't the only big story for the genre right now. There's the Meta 2 and CastAR headsets and we still eagerly await to see what Magic Leap has in store for us. We still expect Google Glass Enterprise Edition to land at some point in the near future too.
Essential reading: The best VR and AR headsets
Here are some of favourite AR experiences, demos and concepts we can't wait to see more of.
Beam me up
Now this really is the stuff of science fiction movies: holoportation. Microsoft's Research team has essentially given us a glimpse at how intimate Skype conversations could be in the future. Using a special rig of cameras and two HoloLens headsets for each user, you'll be able to interact with a hologram of the other person in real time. Just watch the video and you'll see why this really could change the way you catch up with your friends and families who thousands of miles away.
Lucasfilm recently joined the Magic Leap fold. Specifically, the ILMxLab will be partnering with the company to create Star Wars experiences. We've already played with an HTC Vive experience made by xLab and were duly impressed so we can't wait to see what Magic Leap Star Wars will be like. If it's even half as cool as shown off in this video, it'll be mega.
Back in January, Intel decided to get into the AR game by announcing that it was powering the Daqri, a smart helmet and safety goggles designed for the workplace. The Daqri helmet does have a pretty special party trick. Using augmented reality tech and thermal vision sensors, it's able to peer into objects in real time. That means workers can examine machinery with diagrams and maps visible to identify the problem quicker and faster than they could before.
Walking on Mars
Microsoft is joining forces with NASA to let you explore the Red Planet using HoloLens. The Destination: Mars exhibition, which takes place in the summer at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in Florida, will use images and data collected by the Curiosity Rover and project them through the AR headset letting you walk around the planet's surface with Buzz Aldrin as your holographic tour guide. You'll basically get to see what mission scientists get to see, which is pretty cool.
Pass me that brain
Meta CEO Meron Gribetz unveiled the company's second-gen augmented reality headset at TEDx 2016 earlier this year and with it showcased how it's going to take advantage of its HoloLens-beating field of view. Gribetz showed off making a live holographic call, examining a 3D model of a car up close, and best of all, reaching out at a 3D hologram model of a brain to interact with it.
Microsoft has already revealed a host of HoloLens apps and games developers will be able to play around with. One of the most interesting games is Fragments. Described by Microsoft as a mixed reality crime drama, users will be able to see potential suspects in a case enter your environment sitting on the couch telling you their side of the story. Thanks to HoloLens' ability to map environments, characters will be able to lean against objects to add a little more authenticity to the proceedings.
Epson has reserved its AR eyewear for business and enterprise but with the new BT-300 specs it's broadening its horizons and basically hoping you can have a bit more fun with them. It's doing that by letting you control a DJi drone from the smartglasses and will also let you use them in the gym. So you can race in virtual environments when you get bored of staring in the mirror or the music videos played on loop on the TVs.
See the sun
The secretive augmented reality startup that's being backed by the likes of Google and Warner Bros, has been busy recently raising big bucks for its Mixed Reality Lightfield tech. We also got a taste of what Magic Leap plans to do with it with a video shown off in late 2015 showcasing the possibilities of merging augmented and real worlds. The first was of a floating robot hiding behind a table leg as the user moves. The next and arguably more impressive was of a solar system where the glowing planets reflect onto the physical surfaces.