Companies like Oculus VR and Samsung are betting big on virtual reality, but Microsoft is one of the only companies shooting for something even better: augmented reality. Instead of creating a different reality, Microsoft wants to blend the digital world and the real world with its upcoming HoloLens headset, and it has a dedicated holographic television studio dedicated to creating content for the HoloLens.
Demonstrations of augmented-reality displays typically involve tricking you into seeing animated content such as monsters and robots that aren’t really there. Microsoft wants its forthcoming HoloLens headset to mess with reality more believably. It has developed a way to make you see photorealistic 3-D people that fit in with the real world. With this technology, you could watch an acrobat tumble across your front room or witness your niece take some of her first steps. You could walk around the imaginary people just as if they were real, your viewpoint changing seamlessly as if they were actually there. A sense of touch is just about the only thing missing. That experience is possible because Microsoft has built a kind of holographic TV studio at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Roughly 100 cameras capture a performance from many different angles. Software uses the different viewpoints to create a highly accurate 3-D model of the person performing, resulting in a photo-real appearance.