Earlier this week, Microsoft used its CMM press conference to announce the next version of its HoloLens mixed reality screen. When demonstrating the first version in 2015, many experts assumed that the company had simulated the demonstrations because this type of real-time tracking and gesture recognition, coupled with a relatively high-resolution display and presented as a device autonomous, had never been done before.
The fact that Microsoft has taken the time to publish this new version clearly shows the desire to collect comments from its first users and developers who have designed applications for it. In addition, Microsoft has not been under a lot of pressure to publish an update, since it had never had a real competitor, with the possible exception of Magic Leap, which is still in its infancy .
If version 1 was a major surprise, version 2, which I have now had the time to try at MWC, is in many ways the natural evolution of the promise of the future. Origin: More comfortable to wear, the field of view is large enough to feel more natural and the interaction pattern has been changed to make the use of HoloLens applications faster and easier. The material has also been adapted to modern specifications.
The first thing you'll notice when trying out the new version is that the initial calibration process that measures the distance between your eyes is now automatic. You basically play a small game in which you draw a light in front of you and the new look recognition system takes care of the configuration of the calibration. Once this is done, a humming bird appears and lands on your hand. It's also when you realize how far the field of view has become. The bird is big enough so I'm pretty sure it does not belong in the small box that limits the HoloLens 1 field of view.
Do not get me wrong, the experience is not quite what the Microsoft videos would have you believe. You are always very conscious of the fact that there is an abrupt end between the place of appearance and the end of RA images – but it is much less disturbing now that you have this larger box. Regarding the resolution, the specifications are pretty much the same and there is no practical difference that I noted.
The other thing you'll notice from the start is that Microsoft was not joking when it said that the new HoloLens would be much more comfortable to wear. The original felt was in your head (and for me, it tended to slip slowly down my face) and you never completely forgot how heavy it was. The new one rests comfortably on your forehead and, although you always fix it in the face by tightening a pommel in the back, wearing it seems much more natural. The device has only a few grams less than the first edition, but with a different weight distribution, I feel like being lighter. And if you wear glasses, there is more pressure on them either because no weight rests on your nose.
Another major difference: the HoloLens 2 is now a true sun visor that you can open. So, although you can obviously look through the lenses, you can now also easily move the HoloLens away from your face.
During the test procedure of the new HoloLens you will sooner or later discover menus, buttons and sliders. In the first version, the follow-up of the hands and the gestures was not quite there to allow you to interact naturally with these. You will have to use special gestures for this. Now, just tap it as if you were using a smartphone. And when there is a cursor, you grab it and move it. The new demonstration applications presented by Microsoft to the MWC make good use of it all.
And another difference: this time, Microsoft makes it clear that the HoloLens 2 is for business users and that all demonstrations are interested. Time for extraterrestrials to hit your walls or play virtual Minecraft on a table in your living room is over. Indeed, as Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of engineering, mixed-reality applications D365 at Microsoft, told me, the company clearly encouraged a lot of experimentation at the launch of the first version. At present, these use cases have become clear.
"When we started using HoloLens, both internally and in the first wave, we found that it was a totally open technology," she said. . "It's like you asked 30 years ago that you could do it with a personal computer. We started by creating several examples of applications. These apps showed what you could do in games, communications, business applications, and more.
"We started by saying that it could be and do anything," she added. But when HoloLens 1 arrived in the hands of users, some clusters emerged and it is those on which Microsoft wants to focus to offer the best out-of-box experience. But it should also be noted that Microsoft is committed to making HoloLens an open ecosystem. So, if game developers want to create games – or their own game stores – nothing holds them back.
Even though it is now a much more powerful device, at € 3,500, it is not a mainstream device, and I do not think we will see an AAA game transferred under HoloLens 2 in the near future.