Why do you need a HoloLens? Microsoft offers researchers $500,000 to work it out

Microsoft wants academics to help discover ways to make HoloLens and holographic computing useful to the world.

HoloLens, Microsoft's augmented reality headset, could be used for everything from art to space station repair. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is offering academics five $100,000 grants to research new uses for holographic computing.

On Monday, the company published a request for proposals for researchers who want to use its augmented reality headset to develop new applications, ranging from data visualisation to medical training, remote support, first-responder emergency management, virtual conferences, and more.

"We expect that researchers will envision novel ways of using HoloLens -- from interactively teaching students, to creating mixed-reality art installations, to manipulating holographic data to reveal new relationships... to who knows what," Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, said in a blogpost.

Alongside the five $100,000 awards, Microsoft is offering two HoloLens development kits per winning proposal. It notes that the grants are intended to be used to seed-fund larger initiatives, proofs of concept, or demonstrations of feasibility.

The grants are currently only open to researchers from US universities and the submission deadline is September 5, according to the request for proposals page.

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Besides visualisation, education, and communication, Microsoft is also interested in submissions that would put HoloLens to work in storytelling, art, interactive journalism, and psychology-related topics, such as human perception and human-computer interaction. Submissions aren't limited to these fields: they can involve any project designed to help "better understand the role and possible applications for holographic computing in society", Microsoft said.

Microsoft has impressed games developers with its demo of Minecraft through HoloLens, but the company has also been keen to show off to other codes its potential for business applications, such as in engineering, collaboration, and training.

With that in mind, it's also working with NASA to put HoloLens to work on the International Space Station, giving it a high profile case study and a chance to show off its use in training and assistance. For example, the headset, with the aid of Skype, could guide an astronaut through a repair or experiment.

The grants could serve as useful ways for Microsoft to generate interest in the technology and explain to the world where HoloLens fits into people's lives ahead of the eventual release of pricing and availability.

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