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    Microsoft reveals the secret hardware powering Hololens

    We have known about Microsoft’s holographic, augmented reality visor, the Hololens, for some time now but we did not know exactly what was powering it under the hood, until now. Microsoft has been keeping the details of its special Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) very secret. Microsoft revealed most of the HoloLens specifications earlier this year, and the special HPU is designed to do most of the processing so the CPU and GPU are able to just launch apps and display the holograms.

    Microsoft custom designed the HPU and it takes all of the data from the cameras and sensors and processes it in real-time so you can use gestures accurately. This week at the HotChips conference, Microsoft stripped down the Hololens for the first time, revealing the custom-built 24-core, 28nm processor running the show. To put this in perspective, the processor in a typical consumer computer has 8 cores at most. What's more, the HPU has some 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SRAM cache memory and a layer of 1GB of DDR3 RAM on top. Yet the package measures only 12mm by 12mm.

    Microsoft's HoloLens secret sauce: A 28nm customized 24-core DSP engine built by TSMC

    The HoloLens also includes a low-power system-on-chip that runs Windows 10 and works with the HPU to deliver the augmented reality. It draws less than 10W of power, and features PCIe and standard serial interfaces. The HPU’s gruntwork leaves the HoloLens’ GPU and CPU free to concentrate on running Windows 10 and any additional apps, rather than spending their time parsing complex environmental data. That’s particularly important because unlike the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, the HoloLens is a self-contained, standalone device, completely reliant on its onboard hardware.

    HoloLens has been available since March as a developer kit for $3,000, and Microsoft continues to work on bring the costs down for the headsets, which enable you to see 3D holograms on top of what’s in the real world. So you can see an animated version of a skeleton in the middle of a laboratory as part of an anatomy lesson.

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