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Microsoft Just Announced a Major Expansion of Its Augmented Reality Gear

November 2, 2017, 11:12 AM UTC

Microsoft has announced a major European push for its big augmented reality (AR) play, the HoloLens headset.

Microsoft may call it “mixed reality” but the HoloLens basically does AR—it superimposes three-dimensional virtual objects over the real world and, as the company has been enthusiastically saying for more than a year now, the technology has a lot of business applications.

As HoloLens chief Lorraine Bardeen said in a Wednesday blog post, Microsoft already has some big-name customers for the technology. The German industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp is using it to speed up the planning and installation of stairlifts, and Ford is using it when designing new cars.

HoloLens is already available in 10 markets—the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Germany, Canada, France, China, Ireland, Japan, and New Zealand—but the new push will add another 29, essentially covering the rest of the European Union plus Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland.

Bardeen also said existing customers would get “some of the most asked for software updates” for the $5,000 headset “sometime early next year.”

Although most of Microsoft’s stated applications for the HoloLens are relatively sedate, involving design, office use, and “mixed reality meetings,” it does also seem to be readying the device for use in more challenging environments.

“For head protection, we’re happy to announce a HoloLens hard hat accessory is in production and will be available for purchase early next year through one of our partners,” Bardeen wrote, while also noting that the device has been certified as meeting protective eyewear standards in North America and Europe, and is dust-proof too.

Microsoft said in July that future versions of the headset will include a Microsoft-designed artificial intelligence chip that will help analyze sensory data on the device rather than having to send it off to the cloud for analysis.