Heads-on with Microsoft’s Hololens

b-1024x768Microsoft is in the midst of doing a demo tour of their HoloLens device and I went to check it out this past Saturday. As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of the Hololens and its augmented reality (MS refers to it as “mixed reality”) capabilities, so I was excited to actually get to try one.

The headset itself, in its current state, looks pretty much like what we’ve seen in promo shots:

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The device features eye movement tracking as a method of controlling the “cursor,” hand gestures to act upon the cursor and some basic voice commands. Although the demo was very brief and in a controlled environment, I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with it. Some highlights:

  • It’s a standalone device – no tethering to a PC. I’m told that battery life is “a couple of hours.”
  • The image quality was surprisingly good – colors are vibrant and the focus was quite clear
  • The spatial audio, provided by the red protrusions you can see on either side of the headset, was pretty solid
  • The device was surprisingly responsive to both hand and voice commands.
  • It was pretty easy to map the contours of the room so the headset can learn how place data over your real-world surfaces.

Some downsides:

  • Unlike how it’s portrayed in the promo videos, you don’t actually see superimposed data over your entire field of view – instead, there’s a rectangular window, about 1/3-to-1/2 of your overall viewing space, in which the content is projected. This means you kind of have to search around room in order to find whatever data is available.
  • The headset, though not particularly heavy, is a bit awkward to get adjusted properly (not helped by those who wear glasses). On the plus side, the visor sits away from your face, meaning that there’s room for glasses (unlike the last time I tried an Oculus Rift, which was very awkward in this regard).
  • You look like a complete dweeb wearing the thing:

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Needless to say, the form factor has a way to go before it will be consumer-friendly but, once it is, some potential uses for this tech include:

  • remote collaboration where each party can “draw” on the others’ view – great for training.
  • reducing the amount of hardware tech in a home by utilizing the HoloLens as a way to, say, replace a TV
  • being able to include professionals in critical situations (surgery, for example)

Though very “slicked up,” here’s a promo video to give you an idea of potential applications:

And here’s a third-party video that gives a decent, unbiased overview of the device in its current state:

While still in the development stages, it uses off-the-shelf tools – Window 10, Visual Studio and Unity – further details can be found at developer.microsoft.com/holographic.

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