Man met een HoloLens 2

HoloLens 2 and the Future of XR

the next step in XR technology

Microsoft just announced the brand-new HoloLens 2. The successor to the first HoloLens. First, let’s go back to 2015 when Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens 1. HoloLens 1 promised to revolutionize the extended reality field by creating the world’s first mixed reality device. Robbin and Kubilay, co-founders of VR-Innovations, watched the HoloLens 2 conference. They told us all about the new HoloLens 2 and how AR is revolutionizing our world.

Our thoughts on the old HoloLens

HoloLens 1 was used to project digital holograms on a surface, like a table or a floor. Take a meeting for example. Multiple people can project the same model on a table and interact with it. In education the HoloLens can give instructions whilst a student is working on an assignment. The glasses project instructions.

HoloLens 1 was heavily focused on visualization because interaction was limited. The device was also relatively large and bulky which made it uncomfortable to use.

The future of AR is exciting

With the introduction of the new HoloLens the possibilities are expanding. Current applications can be easily ported to the new device. Like we expected HoloLens 2 supports eye and hand tracking out of the box, which opens a world of new applications.

The experience of the new device should be better. The old HoloLens had a very small field of view. This made it difficult to visualize a larger model. HoloLens 2 has doubled the view but also retained its 47 degrees pixel per sight. Microsoft told us that it is like moving from a 720-p screen to a 2k screen.

What this means is that previous interactions, that were limited by the FOV, are now possible. Medical students used the HoloLens 1 to practice operations and study the human internals. HoloLens 2 is powerful enough to visualize an entire human body. HoloLens 1 could only visualize a small part, just the torso.

HoloLens 2 uses a Snapdragon produced chip, the 850, and Microsoft’s own holographic GPU. This chip is faster than the old chip. Graphics and renders look a lot better than they did before. Holograms become more detailed because the holographic density has increased.

On the front of the HoloLens 2 is a brand-new sensor, the Azure Kinect. This camera uses technology previously seen in Kinect cameras for the Xbox gaming consoles. The sensor measures depth in the room so holograms are better positioned. The Azure Kinect is really important for the AR experience.

When Microsoft first announced the Kinect back in 2010 it was primary focused on gamers. However, gamers barely used it, but business saw huge potential in the technique. The first Kinect gave users a new way to control games by movement and voice.

Now 9 years later Microsoft has dropped the gaming support and is completely focussed on business applications. An example, Azure Kinect makes it possible to have cashier-less stores in large scale. The advanced sensors in the device can scan every inch of the store. When you put an item in your pocket it will automatically charge you when you leave the store.

This is just one example of the things that can now be accomplished with this technology. The future is here, and many great things are ready to come.

Before AR could utilize depth sensors, AR was just a layer on the real world without special awareness. Pokémon GO was one of the first AR application with large adaptation. But the Pokémon’s from the game don’t react to the world around you.

Like any technique AR had to start somewhere. However now in 2019 it is mainstream, and it develops in a rapid pace. HoloLens 2 and Azure Kinect have a major impact on the AR landscape. All the things that were promised to us with the first HoloLens are now possible, thanks to the better hardware.

HoloLens 2 has many great educational use-cases.  For example, medical students can use HoloLens 2 to precisely practice operation which was not possible with HoloLens 1. Interaction is not limited to just 3D models. The entire world is accurately tracked and can be used.

At the conference Microsoft showed their virtual boardroom application. People around the world can connect with HoloLens to communicate, and get work done. Because of the advanced tracking the avatars show human-like behaviour. They will blink and move the mouth when it detects that you are speaking. Eye tracking is used to navigate the menu’s much faster than before.

Because of eye and body tracking a huge amount of data is collected. This data is more precise than ever. In training applications every movement is being recorded. After the training the instructor can review this with the student.

What’s next?

A better FOV, more power and advanced sensors. Is it enough to beat the competition? Microsoft is not the only manufacture producing AR headsets. A company called Magic leap is working on an AR headset called the Magic Leap One.

The Magic Leap One also has powerful hardware like eye tracking and advanced sensory. The FOV is about the same as the HoloLens 2. However, the design is closer to a normal pair of glasses.

All these new developments are finally makes something possible we call the mirrorworld. The mirrorworld reflects what something looks like, but also the context, meaning and function. In the future you will be able to interact with it and experience it, just like the real world.

Now the mirrorworld is just a layer on the real world. Imagine having your information all around you, rather than on a phone. Instead of looking at a screen for direction big arrows on the road will tell you where to go. Because AR uses see-through glasses you are not limit to the virtual world like in VR.

In the future you can search for real physical spaces through the power of AR. Instead of searching for a hotel on your phone search for it in AR. Search for a hotel with beach view. AR will search for it and give you directions where to go. This is just one example of the things made possible by advanced AR.

The first big step in technology was the internet, which digitized information for everybody. Platforms like Google made it possible to search for almost anything. Social media was the second big revolution. Facebook for example connects more than a billion people through the power of the internet. It digitized our life’s and made it possible to share it with everybody.

The third big revolution will digitize the rest of the world. Everything will be readable by machines. In short, everything will have a digital twin. This is happening faster than we may imagine. It impowers millions of new applications and ideas that were not possible 5 years ago.

We think it will take at least 10 to 15 years for the mirrorworld to become powerful enough for wide spread use. With any big new technology, it will take some time for mass adoption and acceptance. 

HoloLens 2 will help in making the mirrorworld real. We can’t wait! HoloLens 2 should be released later this year for business users. We will keep you up-to-date in the coming months.

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