HoloLens 2: Microsoft's augmented reality headset launches today, but it's $3,500

From CNET: Microsoft's HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset, which was introduced at Mobile World Congress back in February, is now available to buy, the company announced Thursday. Earlier this year, Microsoft showed CNET the next-generation headset up-close. The self-contained, comfortable flip-up device has no controllers. It uses hand and eye tracking, and slides over glasses. I was impressed how easy it was to use.

I had a second chance to try HoloLens 2 a week ago, and its easy-access design again stood out. But HoloLens 2 isn't trying to woo home users yet -- it's going for corporations. The next-generation AR headset is built off a Qualcomm system-on-a-chip and is targeted at enterprise, not mainstream customers. But it's part of a new wave of AR tech ahead of rumors that Apple may have an AR headset as soon as next year.

The future of augmented reality, which involves layering virtual objects on top of and in relation to real things, still isn't fully here yet. Companies including Facebook, Google, Apple, Magic Leap and Microsoft are all trying to make headway, both on phones and through dedicated hardware. Microsoft's betting on cloud processing to render graphics and send them down to small, low-powered headsets like the HoloLens 2, and world-mapping technology that can pin virtual objects to coordinates that lots of people can see at once. It's a wild AR future vision.

But Microsoft's remote rendering technology is still in private beta, while spatial anchor technology, which will help headsets like the HoloLens to place 3D objects in the real world, is in public beta. (Microsoft's upcoming phone-based game, Minecraft Earth, will be the first AR experience on deck to explore multiplayer AR with shared worlds later this month.) According to Greg Sullivan, director of mixed reality at Microsoft, HoloLens 2 will add these features next year, too.

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