The official website for Microsoft’s HoloLens will either terrify or delight you, with images of a spaceman, a rocket and a chattering toucan in an otherwise innocuous looking living room. Perhaps it’s just me, but that doesn’t particularly tell me much about the product, so hang on a second while I go and read a bit. The official website goes on to tell me that holographic computing is here, and that if I change the way I see the world, then I can change the world I see. Now that does sound rather grand (and not a bit intimidating, if I’m honest). There is yet more detail on this official website which tells me that the product is the first fully untethered (yipes), see-through holographic computer. High definition holograms are able to ‘come to life’ in our living spaces allowing seamless integration in an experience they call mixed reality. Ignoring any references to Arnold Rimmer, let’s read some more about these holograms and the product which calls itself HoloLens.
So, in simpler terms, Microsoft’s HoloLens is Microsoft’s Alternative Reality viewer. If you’re used to this sort of headgear, then you’ll be expecting the weight of it, which is front-loaded – this is generally the case with these sorts of things. If you wear glasses, there’s likely to be space for your face and your glasses within the headset which is a thoughtful, extra touch. Although the price isn’t yet known, it has the look and feel of an expensive piece of kit, so if you’re thinking of investing in this then you’d better get your wallet prepared.
The gaze controls of the HoloLens are good and responsive and should allow everyone from beginners upwards to adapt quickly. The voice controls are also okay although currently those who have tried the equipment out have reported a bit of lag between giving orders and having them executed. This is something that Microsoft would be expected to work on to improve. Gesture control might take a bit of working out , i.e. how far away from the HoloLens should one hold one’s hands to get the best out of this control, but once figured out this control seemingly works surprisingly well and accurately.
As you view the holograms you will still be aware of the real people going about their real lives beyond your headgear. This doesn’t interfere with the experience, however, and the HoloLens can cope with people walking through the projections. If the person in question, however, is your partner demanding you stop messing about and come for your dinner then it might actually be desirable for the HoloLens to stop whatever it’s doing for you and allow real life to interfere until you deem it safe to resume.
There is much about what is already known about this product to get really quite excited about. It’s sturdy, it promises (and so, you would surmise, has to deliver) great functionality and highly advanced holograms and the spatial sound feature allows one to realistically expect an extremely immersive experience.
There is much to be done, however, particularly if the prediction of a high price tag are correct. The glitches and lags need to be eradicated, and the viewing experience needs to be improved so that it doesn’t feel like the holograms must fit on a space the size of a large television in front of the viewer. And hey, if NASA feel it stands up to the test of going into space (astronauts are going to test it at the International Space Station), then I think this is just about as good an endorsement Microsoft could expect to receive. Start saving, the toucan is coming to a living room near you.