Is HoloLens 2 the future of spatial computing?

On the 24th of February, Microsoft announced HoloLens 2 – the latest version of the AR headset which originally released 2 years ago, only this time, it’s focus has shifted. With a play on this being for companies, not consumers, it aims to enable those who don’t regularly work with computers in their life to benefit from this.

When speaking about the consumer of the HoloLens 2, Alex Kipman, Microsoft’s Technical Fellow, AI and Cloud (who’s helping to build Hololens) said, “Maybe people that are fixing our jet propulsion engine. Maybe they are the people that are in some retail space. Maybe they’re the doctors that are operating on you in an operating room.”

A potential market that Microsoft also hinted towards was both Engineering and Medical sectors allowing people such as surgeons to have an augmented overlay as they operate on a patient. This shift away from consumer-focused products such as games and such says a lot about Microsoft’s opinion on where immersive technology is heading.

Microsoft has even developed the headset for certain use cases and demographics. At Mobile World Congress, the team had modified a headset to attach to a hard hat for the construction industry.

Looking at the tech inside the headset, the displays are laser-based which oscillate at 54,000 cycles per secret, giving a resolution of 2k, and giving a wider field of view making it twice as immersive as the original model. They’ve also improved software resulting in natural and intuitive hand gestures and movements to reach out, pick something up or press a button.

Microsoft is hailing this an advancement in spatial computing (using the space around us as a medium to interact technology), positioning the HoloLens as a contender to the Magic Leap One headset.

Our Director of Immersive Technologies, Sam Watts, was invited by Microsoft to attend the announcement of HoloLens 2, in Barcelona before MWC19 kicked off. 

During his exclusive 1-2-1 private demo of the HoloLens 2, initial hands-on impressions were resoundingly positive. From putting on the newly designed and ergonomic headset, to the eye-tracking configuration that worked flawlessly through his glasses, Sam was up and running quickly and effortlessly.

Whilst it was noted by the Microsoft that he was a natural and a joy to demo to, it should be said our years of experience with the original device helped.

The main takeaways from the demo session, and a second turn to experience the updated Pearson’s “Holo Patient” application, were:

  1. Eye-tracking was rapid and accurate, often adding natural input without realising it was taking place (until it was pointed out to him when reading and scrolling through a long passage of text).
  2. 10-finger tracking and input allows you to touch hologram objects and manipulate them easily, grabbing bounding boxes to scale, rotate or even attach them to your hand for re-positioning.
  3. The wider Field-of-View area (FoV) is considerably wider but more importantly higher, allowing holograms to be seen much more clearly before any clipping occurs at the edges.
  4. Azure cloud services such as persistence anchors and rendering will ensure positioning and quality of holograms will greatly improve in terms of visual appearance and stability.

Microsoft is hailing this an advancement in spatial computing (the idea of the use of space as around as a medium to interact with technology, with the core idea being blending technology into our world), over xR – positioning itself next to technology like Magic Leap.

“It was fantastic to get exclusive hands on with HoloLens 2 and whilst I only had 30 minutes demo time in total, I left clearly impressed that this was worthy of the “2“ moniker and is much more than a v1.5 upgrade. Now we just need to know when it will be available to start transferring our existing HoloLens projects to and introducing it to existing and new clients alike.” Sam Watts – Director of Immersive Technologies

The enterprise sector right now needs more immersion, more comfort and industry ease of use. HoloLens 2 is a huge step forward and tackles all three of these.

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We’re always happy to talk to you about how immersive technologies can engage your employees and customers. If you have a learning objective in mind, or simply want to know more about emerging technologies like VR, AR, or AI, send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.