HoloLens Demos Point to the Future of Augmented Reality

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

HoloLens Demos Point to the Future of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality

Microsoft's Hololens has been in the hands of developers for four months now, and already some impressive demonstrations of the augmented reality headset's potential have been shown off. 

Microsoft's HoloLens is one of the upcoming headset devices that promises an exciting future of augmented and mixed reality. The headset displays 3D "holograms" right before a user's eyes, which you they interact with by reaching out and touching them as if they're actually in front of their own face. HoloLens has been in developers hands for a while now, and the platform is consolidating and expanding this activity.

With more developers and designers getting their hands on the technology, HoloLens demonstrations are starting to show off the technology. Soon, along with HoloLens, Google's Magic Leap and Meta will be showing off near-to-release candidates of their augmented reality headsets.

Microsoft has created an page to show off some of the early HoloLens apps, like Skype for HoloLens; HoloStudio, where users can create their own holograms and even send them to a 3D printer; Actiongram, that combines holograms with storytelling; HoloTour, which lets users tour Rome or Machu Picchu virtually; and games like RoboRaid and Young Conker.

So far the demonstrations for all of the systems  have been impressive, if limited.

What may be the most transformative effect with technologies like Hololens in the future may be the way we use computers in general. Currently most work applications have a user sitting in front of one or two monitors, typing on a keyboard and using a mouse. Headset mounted wearables like Hololens effectively allow a user to put as many displays as they like anywhere in their environment. 

Such displays can be can be any size and adjustable. Moreover, like a smartphone, they can follow you wherever you are.

One thing that the HoloLens videos below do not really demonstrate is the immersive quality of the experience. While some early users like James Mackie say the experience with the headset is incredible for the clarity of the display and tangibility of the holograms, others point out that the field of view is not as wide as they might have expected.

HoloLens Demo

Another part a YouTube video doesn't capture is the audio experience a user has while wearing the device. HoloLens' spatial sound works through two speakers that are positioned just above the user's ears. Games and apps use this to make sounds seem to come from specific locations, even behind the user. It sounds like you’re wearing headphones, but you’re not.

The HoloLens optical system is made of see-through holographic lenses that use an optical projection system to beam holograms into your eyes.

These bright and immersive holograms are projected and bounced around as particles of light (photons) through the waveguides and into your eyes. "I’ve used the HoloLens three times now, and I’m convinced this latest version has sharper text rendering," writes Tom Warren from The Verge, "the combination of hardware and software tweaks have definitely made holograms crisper."

Gaming could be a huge application for the technology, as the demo using Minecraft shows. Competing upcoming VR technology like Oculus Rift fully immerses a user, while HoloLens augments the actual physical environment.

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In one interesting demo, shown below, Alex Kipman, the technical lead on Microsoft's HoloLens project shows an app that maps his office and presents augmented reality as a Matrix-style world. Kipman, a Microsoft veteran, was the brains behind Microsoft's Kinect system, and the HoloLens essentially incorporates the sensor into the head-mounted display instead of being a separate system over your television.

The really curious part of the demo though is the device's integration with Cortana. Using Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant, Kipman is able to control the recording he makes and control other elements of the experience.

"Software is the only art form in existence that is not bound by the confines of physics," Kipman told Fast Company when asked about his inspirations a few years ago. "You are only ever bound and constrained by lack of imagination."

Mackie predicts that, "In the next 5 years we will not be using mobile phones, as we know. We will instead wear AR glasses / soft cell contacts / similar (holographic) and have a stream of texts, emails (in whatever form), applications and real-time holographic interactions instead of phone calls."

I looks like that experience with technology is about to soon be more widely available in the form of HoloLens and other augmented reality headset technology. Moreover, Magic Leap, Meta and HoloLens are still early generations of the technology, so in the next few years the experience improvements could be substantial.

By 33rd SquareEmbed


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