h2The future of 3D technology is bright. Whether we are talking about 3D printing and scanning, or virtual reality and holographic displays/goggles, these spaces are sure to spawn multi-billion dollar markets within the coming years ahead. There’s little doubt that large corporations will eventually enter the 3D printing space. In fact, a few already have, and many others show inklings of entering.

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its much anticipated Windows 10 operating system. With it, they also unveiled what seems to be the most advanced consumer-level holographic 3D system to ever hit the market, and best of all it may eventually be a valuable tool within the 3D modeling and printing spaces.

We’ve seen virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, and Magic Leap’s augmented reality goggles, but what Microsoft has revealed — HoloLens — may just be what takes augmented reality to the next level. The Microsoft HoloLens is a wireless 3D holographic display with its own CPU, graphic, and holographic processors built in. Yes, this is a standalone product requiring no secondary control system like a PC or laptop. The user can wear it on his/her face and interact with a computer environment in 3D space anywhere they choose.

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While many of you, right now, are envisioning the possibilities when it comes to interactive gaming, people like myself are looking at this as a tremendous tool for the 3D modeling and printing communities.

Alex Kipman, who helped lead the project with the Operating System Group at Microsoft, called it “print preview for 3D printing”. We are all familiar with a 2D printer’s interface, and the ability to review a print layout on a computer screen prior to actually printing it out. Well, what the Microsoft HoloLens does, is provide an intuitive interface for its users so that they are able to envision what a completed 3D print will look like. Size, shape, color and more are all able to be realized in real time, in 3D, right in front of a users face prior to a print being confirmed.

A 3D Printed model created with the HoloLens (Image: Mary Jo Foley)

A 3D Printed model created with the HoloLens (Image: Mary Jo Foley)

This isn’t all though. It appears that users will be able to manipulate 3D objects in space right in front of themselves, in essence being able to edit a model prior to printing it out. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet showed off a souvenir of an actual 3D print which designers at Microsoft created using the HoloLens, and then handed out to the media who were on hand.  The object was able to be designed in an augmented space via hand gestures or other methods, sent to a 3D printer and then fabricated in the physical world.

With one of the biggest obstacles to mainstream 3D printing being the lack of intuitive 3D modeling software, such a new type of interface could be a boon for both the 3D modeling and printing communities. With the applications, the HoloLens has the potential to make 3D model manipulation as easy as touching the air.

Microsoft has been working on this project for years, and has worked closely with NASA on the technology behind it all. The company has not provided a specific launch date, however they have stated that it will be available in the Windows 10 time frame (a typical OS’s time frame is 4-5 years), and that developers will be able to get their hands on it within a matter of months.

Let us know your thoughts on the Microsoft HoloLens and what it may mean for the 3D modeling and printing spaces. Discuss in the HoloLens 3D modeling and printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out the video below showing off some potential 3D printing applications for this new technology.

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