Most involved developers will agree that the new Microsoft HoloLens is serious business. It is a substantial piece that is sturdy, comfortable, and easy to use and for the most part lives up to all the hype that has been pushed out about it. During the developer’s conference on the new product the keynote speaker said as much and unbelievably was correct on all points.
For those new to the HoloLens it is being promoted as a device designed to augment reality, in case your reality needs a little tuning. It places three dimensional objects in the world that can be seen via the device while it’s on. Unlike the similar Oculus Rift this is not being sold as a VR headset as the purpose behind it is not to immerse the user into a false reality, just make the standard reality more interesting. Projected objects and be placed on real world objects, for instance placing a cup on a table. The cup can then be interacted with, moved or shifted, broken or thrown and so on. This can be done with simple movements or air tapping. Get used to that weird phrase because you are going to hear it a lot in the coming years. You can also affect three dimensional projects by “gazing” and voice commands. Don’t stare to long you will alter reality!
Using the Unity engine anyone can build an app for this device, and this is actually as cool as device itself. The Unity SDK allows users to place objects by defining distance and height from the device location in the direction it is currently facing. Once this is complete the object will be stationary and you can even walk around it and see it from any angle. The best example used at the conference were a series of balls hovering in the air. You could drop when by air clicking them and when they bounced they even sounded like bouncing balls. Voice commands could be used to reset the ball position.
The same balls could be moved to a table and roll around freely and even roll off on to the floor. If they came into contact with objects in the room they would stop or even get stuck on real furniture. This type of real world mapping may be the most interesting aspect of the HoloLens and could ultimately lead to increasingly more powerful apps.
This is due to the fact that the HoloLens passively scans the world around you via a constant series of background commands. Although the current world map is crude it is still amazingly accurate in terms of measurements. Future iterations can clean up the map because everything else is already mind blowing.
The level of accuracy, if not detail, to the world building aspect of the device is simply astounding. Although it can get confused as to exactly what an object should be, it knows exactly where it is and maps out its surfaces with amazing consistency. Add to this the most realistic physics engine that has been seen by the general public and you have yourself one awesome new device with so many real world applications I’ll just leave it at “crap load of stuff”.