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Lenovo open to making a HoloLens competitor

Microsoft's HoloLens hasn't even hit the market yet, but the idea of Lenovo bringing out a virtual-reality headset competitor is not at all far-fetched, according to the company's chief technology officer, Peter Hortensius.

"We're comfortable with bringing these kinds of things to market as customer demand grows," Hortensius said in an interview with the IDG News Service.

The concept of virtual reality is already becoming popular, but Hortensius is especially hot on augmented reality, in which virtual objects are superimposed on top of the physical world via a headset like HoloLens. VR and AR are going to be big, and Lenovo wants to be a part of the fast-growing market, Hortensius said.

Lenovo works closely with Microsoft, and Hortensius said HoloLens gives a good view on where the AR market is headed.

Aside from hinting at a possible device, Hortensius didn't give specifics about how the company would develop and release AR hardware. He said Lenovo was proud of whipping up innovations at a fast pace, indicating that developing a headset wouldn't be an issue.

Another option would be to license Microsoft's proprietary HoloLens technology, which supports Windows 10, as a platform for AR. But Hortensius said Lenovo is capable of bringing out homegrown devices if the market dictates, much like it has in the past with PCs, TVs and mobile devices.

Lenovo has invested a lot in its research labs, which have helped advance laptop and server technologies. Some key innovations in laptops, tablets and screens were shown off by Lenovo at CES this week.

There will be many uses for AR beyond just cool visual and gaming experiences, Hortensius said. It could be useful in commercial applications, particularly in training and troubleshooting, Hortensius said.

Microsoft has shown HoloLens helping medical students understand human anatomy. A 3D structure of the body was superimposed on the HoloLens field of vision, and medical students could navigate through the body. That could also help train students in surgery.

Lenovo isn't the only company considering VR and AR. HP is chasing "blended reality" through a strategy that involves the creation, manipulation and printing of 3D objects. Dell's Alienware X51 is being advertised as VR-ready, and will be available with an optional Oculus Rift headset.

Immersive reality experiences, which combine AR and VR, could be key in Lenovo breaking into the tight community of gamers. Lenovo is already creating its first game, a crowdsourced action game called Game State. The company at CES also released a PC and monitor from its partnership with gaming hardware company Razer.

Some companies offer an entire range of products -- PCs to monitors -- for gamers, but Lenovo doesn't have a gaming tablet. When questioned on whether Lenovo company would introduce one, Hortensius said a gaming tablet "makes sense. We'll see over time."

Products shown by Lenovo at CES include the innovative ThinkPad X1 Tablet, which can be customized to fit individual needs. Customers can add or remove features by snapping on modules at the bottom of the device. Right now Lenovo offers projector, battery and media modules, and new ones could be added if there's customer demand, Hortensius said.

Lenovo also was the first vendor at CES this week to announce a hybrid with an OLED screen -- its ThinkPad X1 Yoga.

Hortensius said the company will continue to add new features to computing devices. One heavily talked about feature is wireless charging, but he said that could take a while to reach PCs.

IDG Insider

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