Microsoft wants you to help build the next HoloLens app. At least, that appears to be the goal of a contest the company kicked off Tuesday: Think up the best idea for the augmented-reality device, and Microsoft itself will make it.
Microsoft isn’t asking for the community to actually develop the app, or even contribute code. Instead, a new Microsoft site asks users to contribute an idea before January 11, 2016. The winner will basically receive a front-row seat to the app’s development, contributing to “weekly build reviews, Q&A sessions, and more,” according to the post, and the winning idea will be developed by Microsoft’s designers, artists, and engineers.
So far, Microsoft has said that all apps coded for the HoloLens will be “universal” apps capable of running on Windows 10 phones, tablets, and PCs, and that “all Universal Windows apps can be made to run on Microsoft HoloLens.” The HoloLens uses a special set of Windows Holographic APIs that track inputs like the user’s gaze, something its other hardware platforms don’t do. (I and other reporters were led through a demonstration of how to code for HoloLens earlier this year, complete with a hands-on of the new untethered hardware.)
Microsoft wowed tech enthusiasts with early public demos and hands-on experiences with HoloLens. Now it needs to stay ahead of the chicken-and-egg problem: Keep its fan base asking for the HoloLens, which in turn will spur app development. Microsoft doesn't want another Windows Phone struggle on its hands.
HoloLens activity shifts to software
In May, we saw what appears to be the “final” version of the HoloLens hardware: a detached, mobile headset that casts a holographic representation over a small portion of your field of view. The device Microsoft plans to ship in 2016 will be for developers only.
In another sign of a shift to software for HoloLens, the Israeli news site Ynet reported this week that Microsoft has laid off 30 hardware engineers from the HoloLens team and shuffled 30 more off to another part of the company. Microsoft didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Microsoft’s ideas page right now looks very similar to its “UserVoice” feedback sites, where users can suggest improvements for most Microsoft products, from Microsoft Windows to Office to the Xbox. As of press time, the very limited feedback has coalesced around ideas like an an augmented piano tutor, a ”real-world” Cortana avatar, and a way of viewing and manipulating 3D charts and graphs in virtual space. Is a Minority Report-style virtual workspace next?