Microsoft HoloLens: Review
Many are those who have been on the edge of their seating waiting for significant breakthroughs in augmented reality technology. For some it always seemed like it is only going to be in the distant future that you could put a headset on and a interact with life like projections in your room. Microsoft have shown that this is not the case with their striking and prodigious HoloLens.
The HoloLens has been available now for just over one year. While it’s still not available on a consumer level, the headset is available for commercial and educational purposes. Depending on your intent, the purchase of a HoloLens set will set you back at least $3,000.
The build quality on this AR viewer is terrific, and must be a big part why the price tag is so steep. In your hands it feels sturdy and definitely not like something that will have to be replaced over a short amount of time. It does however feel like it could scratched easily and lose its aesthetic, but that is probably the same feeling you will get when handling anything relatively expensive that is visually appealing.
How it fits on your head is something you might or might not get used to. Similar to other VR viewers the feeling of immersion is cut back a bit because of the weight on your face. It certainly isn’t a heavy device but it’s still noticeable. The device also tends to slip a bit so you have to keep refitting it from time to time to have it sit comfortably on your face.
The device is untethered which means that it doesn’t have any cables. It’s a whole computer on its own. While this can be nice for maneuvering around a room the downside is that you are limited by battery life. The battery life on the HoloLens could use some improvement as it currently only lasts about 2.5 hours on heavy use.
The projects made by the HoloLens are made to look quite realistic. They are sharp, vibrant and vivid and behave like real objects. You could walk around them and look at them from different angles. You can almost mistake them for being real objects.
There are numerous ways how you can interact with the projections. Gaze is the first form of input and is a primary form of targeting within mixed reality. The HoloLens uses its position and orientation to determine at which virtual or real-world object the user might be looking at to determine the users intent. This also makes it the easiest way of controlling the HoloLens.
The second way you could control your HoloLens is through voice commands. While voice controls is straightforward sometimes there is a noticeable lag between voice commands and their actual executions. This can be bothersome when you expect everything to run smoothly but every time you have to wonder if the HoloLens is taking its time or just didn’t hear you.
The third way is perhaps the one people would like to use the most, gesture controls. This is where you are actually interacting with the projections by touching, swiping and grabbing them. Perhaps gesture controls might be tricky to start off with as you will need to learn how to move your hands so the HoloLens can actually pick up on the movements.
It is when you learn to control using the HoloLens using all three controls is when you will probably use the device efficiently.
What adds to the realistic mixed reality experience is the spatial audio that comes integrated in the headset. Getting close to certain projections will make sounds get louder. This really provides an extra layer to the illusion of mixed reality.
What is something that we do want to see some improvements in is the Field of View (FOV). At a mere 15 inches it doesn’t come close to covering your eye’s own FOV. The projections are of course limited to the FOV of the HoloLens which means your peripheral vision is not covered.
While the HoloLens is certainly a leader in AR projection it still has room for improvement on many aspects. The software element of the HoloLens will probably get drastically upgraded one it’s in the hands of more developers worldwide. Right now it’s only available in less than 10 countries.