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Windows 10 HoloLens to bring robots to life

Hololens robot

Functional robots animated with their own hologram in new Microsoft demo

Microsoft has demonstrated how its ground-breaking HoloLens technology could be used to give personality to otherwise functional robots. The company used its Build conference keynote to show off more tantalising potential uses for its holographic headset, including the ability to project a huge floating movie screen onto walls, which follows you around the house. 

However, the most outlandish demo showcased what Microsoft described as “mixed reality” – a conventional robot that has a friendly avatar hovering above it when you’re wearing the HoloLens. The avatar doesn’t just give the basic robot a more humanlike persona, it allows the HoloLens wearer to control the robot’s functions.

The presenter used voice commands to tell the robot’s avatar to “wake up”, at which point a Metal Mickey-like animation appears to emerge from the actual robot and float above the device, almost as if it’s physically attached. 

Microsoft demonstrated how the robot could tap into the headset’s 3D mapping facilities to help navigate its way around the stage. The HoloLens-wearing presenter could reach out and tap to the points on the stage where she wanted the robot to move to. If an obstruction was placed in its path – in this case another presenter – the robot could plot a path around the obstruction.

The HoloLens wearer could also interact with a control panel that appeared either side of the robot’s avatar, allowing them to access a dashboard of data from the robot and tweak settings, such as altering the LED colour scheme on the robot.

It’s not clear what practical purpose such a tool serves, other than being a very cool toy to play with, but Microsoft is clearly throwing out various HoloLens concepts in the hope that something eventually sticks. Other Build keynote HoloLens demonstrations included a 3D hologram of the human body, which would allow medical students to manipulate various layers – such as skin, bones and organs – and visualise how common bone fractures might appear, for example. 


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