As well as launching the latest version of Windows, Microsoft announced an amazing new piece of kit at a briefing today.

The platform is to be known as Microsoft Holographic, and will work in conjunction with a headset called HoloLens. The software is built into Windows 10, the company’s new operating system, which will be available on tablets, smartphones and, of course, PCs.

Microsoft Demonstrates Holographic Lens Technology

Microsoft HoloLens: A challenge to the competition

Augmented reality technology has not taken off in the way that some commentators had predicted, but Microsoft appears to be pushing the envelope here. Users wearing the HoloLens will be able to see virtual images overlaid onto the real world, with gamers able to turn their home into a virtual landscape from their favorite game.

The HoloLens hardware is an in-house project, but Microsoft says that the platform will also be available to users of Oculus Rift, owned by Facebook, and Google Glass. The company has reportedly been working on the project for over 5 years, in collaboration with NASA.

Attendees at the Windows briefing watched on as a Microsoft executive built a holographic flying drone, which could then be 3D printed. According to project leader Alex Kipman, the holographic platform could act as “print review for 3D printing.”

Impressive capabilities

Wired magazine was lucky enough to get an exclusive hands-on look at the platform, and was effusive in its praise. The headset allows users to move around while they are wearing it, and they can manipulate the virtual images with their hands.

In exciting news for developers, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will include a “holographic API,” which will allow them to build apps for the holographic platform from the day of release. An app called HoloStudio will allow users to design their own holograms too.

Those of you eager to get your hands on the new product may still face a lengthy wait, but Microsoft did say that it will be available “in the Windows 10 timeframe.” Operating systems usually last 4-5 years before being replaced, so by 2019 we could be seeing the world through our HoloLens.