Microsoft’s HoloLens headset is basically a computer that you can wear on your head. It puts a semi-transparent display in front of your face, allowing you to interact with apps and games superimposed on your real-world environment. One of the key things that sets HoloLens apart from virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift is that you don’t need to plug the HoloLens into a computer, because it is a computer.
When Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens in January, the company said it has a CPU and graphics processor built in… as well as a custom chip called a Holographic Processing Unit that analyzes gesture, voice, and visual input, among other things.
Now Microsoft is providing some more details about that Holographic Processing Unit, or HPU.
During a presentation at the Hot Chips conference this week, the company explained that the HPU is a 28nm processor with 28 digital signal processing cores from Tensilica, 8MB of SRAM, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, and 65 million logic gates.
The Register reports the chip is said to be able to do a trillion calculations in a second and is designed to use less than 10 watts of power.
The HPU isn’t the only chip in the HoloLens though. The head-computer also features an Intel Atom Cherry Trail processor with 1GB of RAM and Intel HD graphics… but a lot of the heavy lifting is handled by the Holographic Processing Unit to reduce the amount of work Intel’s low-power processor needs to do.
Microsoft designed the HoloLens hardware in house, but the company wants to make Windows 10 Holographic into a somewhat open platform, which means we could see third-party headsets that can run the software. It’s not clear if they’ll use the same Atom/HPU setup as Microsoft’s early hardware or if they’ll adopt a different approach.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Microsoft eventually decides to drop the Intel Atom processor in the HoloLens for a different chip. While Intel hasn’t exactly pulled the plug on all of its Atom chips, the company’s next-gen Atom processor are aimed at embedded applications such as drones and IoT devices rather than consumer products like smartphones and tablets. I’m honestly not sure which of those categories HoloLens falls into.