My absolute favorite part of covering technology for Tested are those rare glimpses of the future. I’m talking about the first hints of a new technology that has a chance to change the world. That's why we started experimenting with 3D printers and tablets shortly after we launched Tested in 2010. That's why we were among the first people to get excited about the latest wave of virtual reality and the rise of cheap multi-rotors. It's why we're investigating potentially revolutionary last-mile travel solutions, like the Boosted Board and Rocket Skates. To me, technology is most interesting when it's brand new, before designers have chamfered the rough edges and the revolutionary leaps have made way for incremental improvements. I love it when I look at a tech demo and can still see the path that led to the creation of a new product or even a new category.
Each of the example technologies that I mentioned above was the result of multiple advancements being assembled by visionaries at the right time. The decreased cost of LCD screens, flash memory, and high capacity, low-volume batteries made modern smartphones possible. The popularity of smartphones caused the price of the components found within them--solid state accelerometers and gyroscopes, LCD displays, and processors--to drop until technologies like VR suddenly became possible at much lower prices than we ever imagined. Likewise, the rise of low-cost, high-power microcontrollers (Arduino boards and their ilk), combined with inexpensive motors and radios and cheap manufacturing in China caused revolutions in multirotor aircraft and 3D printing.
These categories are all transforming from hyper-expensive products designed to serve tiny niche markets into mainstream consumer electronics. The people responsible for these innovations have one thing in common. They were able to see the pieces necessary and assemble them into workable products before anyone else saw the same potential. This is what Palmer Luckey did for VR with the early Oculus prototypes and what the originators of the Reprap project did for consumer 3D printing.
This brings us to Microsoft's Windows Holographic, which Microsoft demoed at a Windows 10 event yesterday. Despite its wildly misleading name (from what I can tell Holographic doesn't use holograms at all), Microsoft's demo showed augmented reality, seemingly working in the real world, with fewer caveats than anything we've seen before.
If you aren't familiar with AR, it's similar to virtual reality in that it displays information from a computer over your full field of vision. However, where VR is an isolated experience, you put the goggles on and they block your view of the outside world, AR overlays that information on the environment your in. Put another way, VR replaces the world around you, AR enhances it.