It may not be a coincidence that almost to the day of Alexander Graham Bell’s birth , Microsoft announces the Hololens (Microsoft, 2016). And 124 years from that famous day when Bell picked up the phone, Moore’s law is on full display: PCs now have the processing power to alter reality.  

Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago   (Library of Congress, 1892).

Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago (Library of Congress, 1892).

A sneak peek into Microsoft’s HoloLens UI came out on YouTube (Bowden, 2016) just last week. The instructional video explains how to manipulate the product’s superimposed menu. The instructions are polished and the product is appealing. There is no denying that mixed reality is on its way to becoming a mainstream commodity. 

Microsoft's HoloLens Start menu (Warren, 2016) 

Microsoft's HoloLens Start menu (Warren, 2016) 

ZDNet (Dignan, 2016) raises concerns that features like hand-held controllers may impede VR adoption, referring to Oculus’s delay in their UI release. HoloLens elegantly solves the problem. The Verge review (Warren, 2016) explains how the finger selection interface works on HoloLens, including details on the Bluetooth clicker. I believe features like finger control will lead to successful product adoption. It is a marvelous alternative to carrying around a hand controller. The intuitive simplicity of the entire product harks back to the objectives of the earliest days of virtual collaboration: cognitive seamlessness.

Approximately 100 years after Bell's phone call (and just eighteen years ago), Hiro Ishii was in the MIT Media Laboratory exploring seamless collaboration media and invented the Clearboard (Beaudouin-Lafon, 1999).

Hiro Ishii and Clearboard, (MIT Media Lab, 1994)

Hiro Ishii and Clearboard, (MIT Media Lab, 1994)

Clearboard superimposed graphics in a shared environment such that participants could still recognize each other’s gestures, head movements and make eye contact (Clearboard, 1994). Achieving criteria that Ishii identified in his research underscores why Microsoft’s HoloLens will be so successful: “The experience needs to achieve seamlessness continuity with the user’s existing work environment and skill set, and minimize the shift between functional spaces or modes” (Beaudouin-Lafon, 1999, Pg. 86). The display headgear and finger controller are the next logical step after the iPad in the evolution of user interface. Unlike the immersive experience of total virtual reality, HoloLen’s superimposed imagery keeps the user from entirely transitioning modalities.  

Through the iterative design of these collaboration media, we believe it is most important to respect the skills that people use in everyday life. The design focuses on basic skills such as drawing, gesturing, talking, gaze reading, and using computers. We believe skill-based design will lead to cognitive seamlessness.
— Hiroshi Ishii, MIT Media Laboratory (Beaudouin-Lafon, 1999, Pg.98)

Ishii's words ring true twenty-four year later. Microsoft has synthesized the collaboration interface inside the user’s mental perspective. The product achieves “gaze awareness” (Beaudouin-Lafon, 1999, Pg.98).

Just like Google Glasses, any large enterprise should be eagerly awaiting the release of the HoloLens product and investing in this technology because of its fast adoption curve and improvements in product assembly, training and medical fields. The potential for augmented reality to assist remote support situations was on display in developer's booth at CES 2016, using the technology assist in the remote repair of an oil field pump. 

HoloLens Headgear (Shilov, 2016)

HoloLens Headgear (Shilov, 2016)

ZDNet is not alone in raising concerns that, despite the demand, product adoption will be stymied due to the lack of PCs on the market today with sufficient processing power to run augmented reality applications (Dingan, 2016). Technically, the limitation is with the graphics card, not the PC. Still, Intel's announcement yesterday that Intel plans return to their strategy of doubling processing power every two years (PC World 2016) should give hope that PC manufacturers will quickly fill any gaps that prevent augmented reality from becoming mainstream.

With the introduction of the HoloLens and marking Bell’s birthday, let’s take a moment to thank Ishii and all the other scientists who have contributed to bringing us into the world of augmented reality. Moore’s law has prevailed.


TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson


Beaudouin-Lafon, M. (1999). Computer Supported Co-operative work. John Wiley and Sons. West Sussex, England. Retrieved from

Bowden, Z. (2016). Microsoft hololens start UI. Youtube. Retrieved from

Dingan, L. (2016). Virtual reality faces five hurdles to justify the CES buzz. Retrieved from

Library of Congress (1892).  Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago. Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Retrieved from

Microsoft (2016). Hololens Experience. Retrieved from

MIT Media Lab (1994). Clearboard. Retrieved from

PC World (2016). Intel outlines a plan to get back in line with Moore's Law . Retrieved from

Shilov, A. (2016). Microsoft reveals additional details about Hololens and begins to take pre-orders. AnandTech. Retrieved from

Warren, T. (2016). Microsoft's HoloLens Start menu detailed in leaked video. The Verge. Retrieved from