I tinker with this awesome futuristic device.
Author: Ian Roach Twitter
The Hololens , microsofts answer to Augmented Reality in a lot of ways feels like the future. The first time you see a full 3d hologram really feels like something out of Minority report or Star Wars.
Hololens is a self contained windows 10 computer, so unlike other VRand ARdevices there are no cords, which allows the wearer to fully walk around the holograms which makes the experience even more amazing .
Although it looks sleek one of the downsides of the device is that after wearing it for a few hours it can start to feel really heavy on your head, however the battery life generally only lasts around 2 hours so it's currently not something you would wear all day
Microsoft also recommends you use it purely indoors, this is because holograms can feel washed out and hard to see in sunlight, and the device itself if it gets too hot will auto shutdown.
Naturally the first thing you try when you get the device is to checkout some of the cool demos available on the store. Here are some of the better ones
The Galaxy explorer is one of the first released applications on the device, its also one of the few where Microsoft have shared all of the code. Initially, impressions are stunning.
It starts off with a guided tour through our solar system, fully narrated, then allows you to click on different galaxies and smoothly fly into systems and planets. It definitely had a huge wow factor as you see a fully 3d solar system standing on your table
The Holo Tour is another Microsoft demo that allows users to immerse themselves in various locations around the earth, currently Machu Picchu and Rome.
What is really impressive about this app is that it offers full 360 panaroamic video so which ever direction you look it feels like your actually standing there.
Much like Galaxy explorer it offers a narrated tour through the locales and allows you to blend current day live video with historical overlays like old battles of Rome.
Holomap is a third party application which links in bingmsod satellite overlays and road traffic data into a fully 3d hologram . It allows users to browse to any part of the globe and see the real life satellite imagery and 3d buildings. It also allows you to manually draw 3d shapes and offers other drawing capabilities.
I found this demo really impressive as it had a lot of real world applications, being able to walk around / zoom in and examine real life locations from around the world is truly an impressive experience.
The special version of Skype might not seem that impressive (yay video calls), but what is truly amazing about the application is it allows users on non HoloLens devices to draw 3d shapes into the wearers 3d space.
The real life application is tremendous. It basically allows a teacher to train students remotely. As the HoloLens student is examining objects the teacher can talk them through, draw shapes to highlight areas, bring up schematic plans, or even import 3d hologram applications to show the student.
Out of all the demos, for my work purposes, this probably impressed businesses the most; especially in mining sectors where it can be expensive to fly engineers to remote areas .
Now I have talked about the amazing apps other people are creating, let's talk about how we develop for the device.
Turns out it's a lot easier then I expected. All that is required is:
- Windows 10
- Visual Studio 2015
- Unity (not required but makes it a lot easier)
In reality any UWP application will run on the device, it is, after all, just rubbing a Windows 10 os.
For my purposes though (and with my experience with Unity) getting a basic application running is very simple. You just build your application as a Windows 10 application. Newer releases of unity even allow you to remotely debug your projects through the device.
- Impressive build quality: It does not feel cheap, has great glass protection, and adjustable straps for all head sizes.
- Impressive hands free interaction: It uses 3 main gestures, clicking, pinching and a gesture to exit an application.
- Holograms look amazing: The full 3d holograms that you can move around and interact with is truly amazing!
- Great Sount: Full spatial sound; the speakers in general are impressive and allow you to still hear the outside world.
So it might seem I am gushing over the device, and you would be right, but there are also a few negatives to mention:
- As mentioned it only had around 2 hours battery life.
- The field of view is quite small, however personally I found this as not a big issue as it allows you to see more of the real world and not get totally lost in the holograms.
- There is no device storage, you must rely on Onedrive to transfer documents etc between applications. In the current days of cloud storage this also isn't a huge issue, but for companies who are mindful of private data and security it could be a roadblock.
- Device can start to feel heavy on your nose after wearing it for prolonged periods.
- It's expensive. It runs currently around $3000. It is only gen 1 though so I imagine they will drop in price as the device is improved further.
Overall HoloLens really feels like a futuristic device unlike anything I have experienced, and this is just version 1.0!
Microsoft could have a winner in there hands if they can improve its wearability,battery life, and of course its price.