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Microsoft opened its Build developer conference in Seattle this morning with an awkward start. The software giant was supposed to show a recreation of the Apollo moon landing with its HoloLens 2 headsets. Instead, the demo failed, a nightmare scenario for anyone running a live show. “Well, it seems doing a live demo is actually harder than landing on the moon,” said A Man on the Moon author Andrew Chaikin. “Thank you for your time,” said Chaikin, before exiting the stage and leaving the audience confused at a failed demo.
A minute or so passed, and then Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared on stage, with no acknowledgment of the failed demo or what the company was trying to achieve. If the demo had actually worked, the result was certainly impressive. Variety has a story on how Microsoft had partnered with Epic Games to recreate the moon landing on stage.
The video (above) shows a rehearsal of the HoloLens 2 in action, with the holograms streamed directly to the headsets from remote PCs. It’s all powered by a pixel streaming feature that’s part of Epic’s Unreal engine. It streams high-quality images to HoloLens headsets that are remotely rendered on powerful PCs with desktop GPUs. The HoloLens 2 is limited by its on-board mobile GPU, so the amount of rendering that’s possible is basic. So this pixel streaming is important for more complex imagery like Microsoft tried to show today.
It’s clear pixel streaming and AR in general is still complex, even though Microsoft is relatively ahead in its ambitions to make it widely used. That complexity hit a hurdle today, but you can guarantee Microsoft will make sure that any future HoloLens demonstrations go a lot more smoothly.