The Microsoft HoloLens has a fairly passionate, yet relatively small group of users pushing the developer-centric device forward, mostly spreading the word about the device through word of mouth and meetups. But this weekend, during the annual NBA All-Star festivities, we got a look at how Microsoft may be planning to market the device if it ever goes truly mainstream.
Using the spoken word style approach, delivered by rapper and actor Common (who also performed at the NBA All-Star game), Microsoft put together a montage of some of its newest products under the tagline "empowering innovation."
Standing alone on a stage in an empty theater, Common extols the virtues of new technology, as a flurry of Microsoft products whiz by, including the Surface Studio, the Kinect, WINSenga (a Microsoft partner), a smartphone-based ultrasound system, and, of course, the HoloLens.
"We are living in the future we always dreamed of," says Common, as the camera continues to pan around the empty stage and his voice shifts into a more earnest, coffee house poetry slam cadence. "We have mixed reality that changes how we see the world. And AI empowering us to change the world we see."
Right around the time he hits that mixed reality note, we see the HoloLens being used for a medical app, and yes, it looks pretty damn cool. However, we see none of the "Mixed Reality" branded VR headsets that are being pushed by Microsoft's partners, so … there's that Microsoft terminology confusion again.
Microsoft first hitched its marketing wagon to Common back in 2015, when performer delivered a voice-over for the company's similarly inspirational Super Bowl commercial.
Nevertheless, the spot is one of the first times we've seen Microsoft use its marketing might to aggressively promote the HoloLens and "mixed reality" on the back of one of the most high-profile celebrities in television, film, and music. And the fact that the commercial aired constantly during the NBA All-Star weekend is a hint that Microsoft may no longer be content to let the HoloLens trudge along in marketing obscurity while its other, non-developer centric products get the spotlight. Is Microsoft about to focus its HoloLens efforts on mainstream, non-developer users? Based on this commercial, it seems that's a strong possibility.
If so, there's an even more important question the commercial asks, through the avatar of Common: Now that we have all these futuristic tools, "What will you do with it?" That's literally the last line spoken by Common in the ad, and it's the only one that really matters.
However, if Microsoft really has designs on snagging mainstream HoloLens users, it would probably do well to provide its own answers as to use cases, rather than asking these open-ended questions about the future.