Last month, Microsoft expanded its holographic horizons, making its HoloLens headset officially available outside of North America for the first time. The mixed reality device launched in six new markets - the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Germany - and today, the company has announced its launch in another part of the world.
On December 2, Microsoft will open pre-orders for HoloLens in Japan, bringing the total number of markets up to nine. Shipments to those who pre-order will begin in "early 2017", although an exact date has not yet been specified.
In recent months, Microsoft has been working with a wide range of partners from all over the world to explore the potential for the device, including:
- German engineering giant thyssenkrupp, which has equipped 24,000 of its technicians with HoloLens in an effort to revolutionize the $44 billion-a-year global elevator industry;
- Swedish auto-maker Volvo, which is looking at ways to use the headset to transform the way that people buy cars;
- SketchUp, which developed a new version of its popular 3D modelling app for HoloLens, for professionals in the architecture, engineering, construction, and operations industries; and
- NASA, which is now using HoloLens at its 'Destination: Mars' exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center, and has even put the headset to use aboard the International Space Station.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference this summer, Microsoft also highlighted its partnership with Japan Airlines, which has been using HoloLens to improve training for the engineers who maintain its fleet of aircraft. The airline said that the headset offers "advantages and potential" for its operations, including quicker maintenance procedures, and improvements to safety - the top priority for the aviation industry.
Microsoft's Alex Kipman said today that the company is on a mission "to bring mixed reality to every person and organization on the planet", adding:
"Since January 2015 we have been hard at work to bring the vision of mixed reality to life. It has been inspiring to see what has been created by our partners, and the team remains in awe of the way developers are using HoloLens. We can’t wait to see what everyone in Japan creates when they get their hands on HoloLens."
We recently highlighted HoloLens among ten reasons to be excited about Microsoft's future - be sure to check out our feature article about that here.
You can also find out more about what it's like to use HoloLens in our hands-on feature from earlier this year.