HoloLens: Microsoft’s innovative VR headset explained

Here’s everything you need to know about Microsoft’s augmented reality headset, HoloLens. Including connectivity and compatible apps, release date and price.

22 Jan 2016


Microsoft’s headset lets you see and interact with the world in a range of cool new ways…

A fresh set of details have been revealed about HoloLens – Microsoft’s augmented reality headset. It’s different to other virtual reality (VR) headsets as it uses augmented reality (AR) to project virtual images onto everyday settings. Here’s everything you need to know about HoloLens, and how you’ll be able to use it.

Microsoft HoloLens at E3 2015

Augmented vs virtual reality

Both AR and virtual reality headsets are designed to immerse you in a digital version of the real world. They’re great for gaming and giving you a new way to interact with your surroundings.

Virtual reality does this by creating a completely virtual world for you to move around in. There are several VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift, in the pipeline for release this year.

The major difference is that when you use augmented reality, the virtual blends with reality. AR works by projecting images onto reality to change the way you see and interact with the real world. AR technology has been mainstream for a while now – Google Glass is a good example of an early AR headset that you could use to take photos, see maps and get directions, and check into locations.

HoloLens uses more sophisticated technology to create a new type of AR experience.


What do we already know about HoloLens?

Early details of HoloLens were announced at a Microsoft 10 event in January 2015, and since then there’s been a lot of buzz about what you’ll be able to do with it.

At the E3 event in June we saw it being used to play an AR version of Minecraft. In the demo, blocks were projected onto a table and the user controlled them by moving their head and arms, and gripping their fingers to make specific commands.

Now we’re starting to see how we’ll be able to use the HoloLens, with information about connectivity and compatible apps, as well as details of its release date and price, revealed.


HoloLens features explained – how will you be able to use it?

Apps and gaming

When it’s released, HoloLens will be compatible with existing Windows 10 apps. That means you’ll be able to use it to access your emails, browse the internet and Skype with friends and family – all by projecting the different programmes onto your wall.

Microsoft has also teased some of the games that you’ll be able to play. One of these is Project X-Ray, a first-person shooter that involves taking out a swarm of aliens in your living room using your hand as a gun.

Microsoft HoloLens

Battery life

HoloLens is completely wireless and can connect to most Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices. This gives you more freedom to move about and interact with your surroundings when you’re wearing the headset. However that means battery life is – at this stage – limited to 2.5 hours during ‘intensive’ use (that’s things like playing games and watching 3D content) or 5.5 when you use it to access email and Word docs. So it’ll need charging if you want to use it every day.



It’s also been confirmed that multiple people wearing a HoloLens headset can see the same image at a time. This makes it ideal for multiplayer gaming, or for sharing ideas and information at work or school. It also gives you new ways to interact with people you know. Because it’s wireless, users don’t have to be in the same room to connect.


Release date and price

Right now there’s no exact release date, but early versions of HoloLens will start shipping to users in North America early this year. However, this version is just for developers to create new ways of using the headset. It costs around $3,000 (£2,100).


To read more about virtual reality at CES 2016, click here or see our guide to Windows 10, here