HoloLens 2 on the Horizon for 2019
Microsoft use Mobile World Congress to reveal that HoloLens 2 will be available to the market later this year
Normally reserved for mobile centric news Mobile World Congress, MWC, has this year provided the platform for Microsoft to reveal their vision for the next generation of mixed reality enhancements. Microsoft HoloLens is the American tech giant’s proposition to take the emerging realms of mixed reality, or XR, to the next stage. The device expands on the functions of a standard virtual reality headset to bring a new wave of potential functions that they hope will have a huge impact on the business world.
Effectively the first iteration of HoloLens, released in 2015, combined a high performance holographic computer with a visualisation headset allowing the wearer to see, hear and interact with seemingly holographic projections for any number of possible use cases. HoloLens differs from other XR headsets available as it doesn’t fully obscure the user’s field of vision allowing a genuine mixed reality experience with a combination of real world optical and superimposed visuals. Now with announcement of HoloLens 2, Microsoft, have honed their initial proposition to enhance the experience for users with improved visuals and a greater kinaesthetic capability.
HoloLens 2 will be made available later in 2019 and should see an entry level price point of around £2680, although there will be variety of optional extras and enhancements available. The device is now available to pre-order from Microsoft’s specialist XR presales teams. Although the exact shipping date for the new device isn’t yet confirmed it’s likely to be in the second half of this year.
What’s New with HoloLens 2?
The placement efficacy of the superimposed visuals created by HoloLens are dependent on an accurate estimation of where the subject is looking and Microsoft have added new features to improve the process. Sensors on the device around the bridge of the nose focus back on the user’s eyes allowing the device to more definitely perceive the viewer’s field of vision and focus thereby improving the placement of the visuals.
Most other interactive headsets require an additional controller unit to allow the user to interface with their virtual surroundings. One of the major revelations with the first generation of HoloLens was the ability to use your body parts to seemingly interact with the apparent visions that were entering your mixed reality world. Microsoft appear to have radically improved the depth and ability of gesture control in HoloLens 2. In the initial version users only had the ability to utilise a small number of click and tapping gestures to interact with the visuals but HoloLens 2 will have the capability to recognise a much larger spectrum of hand movements enabling much more detailed interactions.
As well as improving the accuracy and usability in HoloLens 2 Microsoft have also enhanced both the quality and scale of the user’s field of vision. Firstly they claim that they have effectively doubled the quality and detail of the display’s resolution, giving users a more high definition experience with the imposed visuals. Microsoft say that the new display using their new MEMS laser display is the ‘ smallest and most efficient 2k display in existence’. This improvement in the display quality was critical as arguably the biggest development leap has been made in terms of the field of view. This effectively refers to the size of hologram that a users can see whilst operating the device. In some quarters there was disappointment with the first generation device as users realised the area of windows graphics available was smaller than they had anticipated. In HoloLens 2 the size of potential imposed visuals more than doubles. Coupled with the enhanced resolution quality the new larger impositions should not appear blurry or distorted.
Business Now the Target
Many of the new features are designed to make HoloLens 2 more suitable for business applications. Microsoft’s marketing material focuses heavily on potential use cases with design and manufacturing environments and this is clearly the primary target for the new device.
Businesses can engage with Microsoft’s specialist XR presales teams to determine customisation and enhancement options that could make the device more suitable for their particular environments. This could be custom fitting the devices into hard hats, for construction, or potentially adding more durability features to cater for extreme working environments.
Clearly professional environments are Microsoft’s key target as the price point puts HoloLens 2 out of scope for most consumers. Some of the demonstration’s on show at MWC have clear implications for businesses and have been designed to showcase what the HoloLens 2 can really do in terms of much more detailed movement processes and remote interaction with other users who might be situated in different locations. One area with real potential is within remote meetings and some of Microsoft’s partners including Spatial, the XR collaboration specialists, are already looking to develop solutions that will allow remote participants from different locations to appear and collaborate in a space together.
Microsoft are also making more support available to businesses to help them understand how HoloLens 2 could be utilised within their own businesses. There are now guides in place to support developers in creating and managing their own content.
With this latest release in the form of HoloLens 2 it is clear that Microsoft see the realms of mixed reality as a huge potential market. It might not be long until the devices make their way to an office space near you. The development doesn’t stop there either. Microsoft have also revealed they are already developing HoloLens 3 so who knows what is potentially on the horizon when it comes to Microsoft’s futuristic world of mixed reality.