Microsoft preps HoloLens beta kits along with a mixed-reality video app

Some beta testers are already working with the augmented-reality headset and an app called Actiongram that lets them create mixed-reality videos, according to leaked documents.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
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Microsoft previously said the $3,000 developer edition of the HoloLens would ship in the beginning of 2016.


Microsoft's HoloLens is already in the hands of a group of private beta participants. Those in the program are working on augmented-reality videos using a new Microsoft app called Actiongram that's due to be announced on February 29.

These tidbits are courtesy of documents discovered and posted to Twitter by infamous Microsoft sleuth WalkingCat. The Cat uncovered a bunch of public relations documents for the augmented-reality headset and beta assets for Actiongram, code-named Project Burbank, and made them available for download. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has since pulled them from public access.

Augmented reality is gaining attention thanks to the backing of heavy tech hitters such as Google and Microsoft. Unlike virtual reality, which completely immerses you in a computer-generated world, augmented reality blends the digital and physical worlds. Another difference is that people will be able to buy virtual-reality tech like the Oculus Rift and HTC's Vive this year, but Microsoft's HoloLens isn't intended for consumers just yet.

Microsoft officials previously said they'd begin shipping the $3,000 developer edition of the HoloLens in the first calendar quarter of 2016. One of my contacts said Microsoft told applicants the first wave of "accepted" developers would be notified at the end of February about the imminent arrival of the kits.

By getting HoloLens goggles and an early version of the Actiongram app into the hands of testers, Microsoft is hoping to get the app in shape for a February 29 reveal, according to a leaked internal schedule. Microsoft filed for the Actiongram trademark eight months ago.

The aim of the Actiongram videos that testers will create using the app "is not to review the product," according to Microsoft's guidelines, "but to showcase and document the unique process of creation."

I'm thinking the Actiongram-created videos might look like some of the promo videos Microsoft employees began highlighting via Twitter late last year. Maybe we'll see even more than just those kinds of videos from the closed beta participants.

Closed Beta 1 for Actiongram began in early February and will last through March 31, according to Microsoft's schedule. A second, larger closed beta will run from early April until late May, and an open beta for the app will run from June through the end of October.

In a video targeting Actiongram creators, Microsoft provides a glimpse of the HoloLens Start menu, dubbed the HoloShell, in action.

The leaked documents also mention a Bluetooth clicker, which should be a great asset for those who find air taps difficult to master and tiring to repeat. (Yay for mouselike devices prevailing in natural user environments!)

This story originally posted as "Microsoft gears up to roll out HoloLens beta kits, Actiongram mixed-reality videos" on ZDNet.