Nerds everywhere await the release of the HoloLens which, if it becomes everything that Microsoft says it will be, will lead the way into augmented reality (AR). By Microsoft’s definition, the HoloLens will go beyond the screen to provide new ways to create and connect, as well as a more natural way to connect, and will be the most advanced technology Microsoft has developed to date. Although the AR headset has yet to be released, people who had the privilege of previewing the device at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) have been giving it great reviews; some saying it definitely holds the promise of the future of computing.
As with any groundbreaking technology, determining the specs for the HoloLens is still difficult, as there is nothing to which to compare it. According to those who have had the chance to try it out, the HoloLens gives an awe-inspiring AR experience. Gamers who got the chance to play Minecraft using the device with Xbox controllers report that the tumbling blocks seemed to fall directly in front of them. The user had the ability to look left, right, and center; views that would normally be obscured by the TV. Although this did not change the gaming experience that much, it did provide the user with a much deeper sense of immersion. During the gaming demo, they were also given the opportunity to play on tablets, which enabled them to use their fingers to navigate.
The HoloLens gives users the choice between regular 3D, which has a small amount of depth, and holographic 3D which gives the user the ability to literally walk through the doorway into the Minecraft world. When not using controllers to navigate the HoloLens, the device uses the movement of the user’s fingers to navigate as well as voice command. The prototype seemed to have the same glitches as the Kinect once had in the sense that it did not sense the finger movement well.
HoloLens currently has a narrow field of vision. When walking up close to the holographic images, they can disappear, or parts of the projection will become invisible. When looking left and right, peripheral vision is lost, which is a constant reminder that the environment is made of holographs. The user may have to walk back and forth in order to regain a certain field of vision.
During the demo, some users reported that their headsets had crashed, and the Microsoft technical staff quickly rectified the problem by providing a new HoloLens or by adjusting the current one. Crashing is not uncommon when it comes to prototypes, but it should be noted.
Aesthetically, the HoloLens is ready to take home. It is sleek, easy to put on, and lightweight, with none of the awkwardness that normal prototypes have. The Microsoft technical staff were more than helpful when it came to adjusting the headsets to pupil distance, which had to be done with great accuracy. This left users wondering if the device would be usable at home, since they staff were constantly having to adjust them for proper operation. Even so, those lucky enough to have the chance to preview Microsoft’s future release at E3 2015 were convinced that it was definitely a promise of the future to come.
The AR headset has the potential to provide users not only with the best gaming experience in the world, but also to potentially change the way society communicates, because if the HoloLens reaches its potential, users might be able to project 3D images of themselves to others through a computer screen. The prototype previewed at E3 2015 is way behind the level of AR technology that Microsoft has promised, but so far, it seems to have given its users a glimpse of what the future of computing may be.
By Tanatswa Taruvinga
Microsoft.com: Microsoft Hololens
Techradar.com: Hands on: Microsoft HoloLens review
Engadget.com: I played ‘Minecraft’ with Microsoft’s HoloLens
Image Courtesy of Microsoft Sweden’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License