Holo App

Holo App Review (iOS/ARKit)

In this review, we’ll take a close look at Holo. This app was released  6 months ago but only 2 months ago in October, it received an ARKit support on compatible devices.

What is Holo?

Holo is a unique AR app among all the other apps that I’ve seen because it allows you to add holograms of real people and animals into the real world. Until now, you mostly got to see virtual 3D models or images in AR and Holo changed that.

When I talk holograms, I am not talking about a flat image, but a three-dimensional animated realistic looking character. You can walk around it and see it in all angles like in real life. It’s like it’s actually right there.

The great thing about this app is that it uses augmented reality to allow placement of hologram so it sticks to a surface and appears like its genuinely a part of it, including shadows (not real-time shadows) which make each character appear like its actually standing on the floor, not floating in the air. Now add sounds to it and you might confuse people when you show them your movie or photo, they might not even recognize that it’s a hologram and not a real person.

Because all those people and animals are all virtual, you have the ability to re-position, rotate and scale them as you find fit. You can make them small or super large. Think about it as a video player window but in 3D, you can resize it, move it and even pause it, yes, you can pause the animation at any moment by pressing the pause button.

Actual uses for this type of app

Holo is a gimmicky app in my opinion. Although I did enjoy toying around with it for the first couple of minutes, the experience did wear off quite fast.

Girl dancing in augmented reality
This realistic-looking girl dances right in front of you in augmented reality!

That being said, this app wasn’t designed for just taking photos or videos of the pre-rendered people or animals. Holo is more like a camera app, where its benefits come from being able to take photos of other people interacting or being part of the snapshot or recorded scene. For example, have you ever wanted to be in a photo with Spider-Man? Well, now you can, and it will look more realistic than ever. It looks far more authentic and entertaining than just sticking a transparent PNG image of Spider-Man on a photo and sharing it on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat.

Just think about it for a second. We all love adding visual effects, stickers, and smileys to our messages and photos, right? Well, A video is way more fun and engaging way to communicate and instead of putting boring smilies that you’ve seen millions of times on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, you have the ability to come up with something way more creative than that.

Downsides and What’s Missing?

One of the app’s downsides is that if you want to appear in the video, you need to ask someone to record a video or take a photo of you. The app uses the iPhone or iPad’s rear camera, so it definitely isn’t practical to try to film yourself in the scene or take a snapshot of yourself with you controlling the camera. Furthermore, there is no option to create a hologram of yourself.

I first thought that this is the idea of this app and I was very excited, but only to find out that it’s not possible. All of the holograms that you see are pre-rendered and added to the app by the developer.

There is quite a large selection of holograms. The app features a browser which allows you to easily find and locate holograms that you want to use in your photo or video. The browser has several sections like My Holos, Features, Characters, Popular and also uses tags which makes it even easier to locate great Holos. The developer is adding more Holos on an ongoing basis.

Holos browser page
Holo’s Browser section. It makes it easy to find a hologram to use in your photo or video.

The use of tags is smart, it follows the same searching principle like animated gifs. However, instead of just sharing an animated animation of someone or something else, you can actually put yourself so you will be a part of the scene itself. There is still no search engine for holos. I think it’s because the selection is just too small. The problem is that I can’t see this app getting to thousands of holos fast if there isn’t an option for users to record their own holograms. If the developer of the app won’t do it, someone else will.

I’ve read in the user comment section that once user recommended deploying hologram recording studios throughout the country like in malls. I actually think it’s a bad idea because it has to be mobile. Why go to a mall and do it, let an app do it. The problem is that to do this, there suppose to be a green screen that can help separate the subject from the background. Having said that, I think that a smart algorithm can do just that. All you have to do is to circulate around the object 360-degrees and the algorithm should be able to differentiate between the object and background element and create a 3D model of the subject. I think there is already an app that can do that. but I can’t remember its name. If I remember I’ll update this section.

Another thing that I didn’t like is the image quality of the holograms. The image quality of the pre-rendered characters is very poor. You can easily tell that it’s a pre-recorded figure due to the heavy jaggies and cutouts on the edges of the character and pixelated low-resolution image quality of the entire hologram. You can lessen the pixelated visual appearance by taking a photo or recording a video a bit further away from the hologram. The closer you are to the hologram, the more pixelated it appears.

The main reason for the low-quality hologram is related to the file weight. Delivering a high definition rendering will require hundreds of megabytes of data, maybe even more. It will obviously fill up the storage space of the device very quickly and will also take forever to download. I’m sure that the developer has spent a lot of time deciding on the optimal resolution so users can enjoy the best possible visual experience considering the bandwidth and storage space limitations. Obvio, sly if everyone had access to a 5G network and have terabytes of storage space it wouldn’t be a problem, but we don’t, so the app needs to adapt to those limitations.

Also, keep in mind that only a few holograms are installed by default. This means that you’ll need to download each other hologram which wasn’t part of the app by default. I can take around 30 seconds to download a single hologram, but once you’ve downloaded it, you don’t need to do it again.

I have no doubt that apps like that can be used for educational purposes as well. I’ve already seen an app called JigSpace that does exactly that, but instead of image-based 3D holograms, it uses 3D models and animations. You chouse definitely check it out if you haven’t tried it yet.

How it compared to a 3D AR Camera App?

Vixeo is also a similar app, but unlike Holo, it uses 3D models and it allows you to trigger certain types of custom animations for each. For example, you can use a joystick to make a dinosaur walk and turn around within the 3D scene.

Mexican guitarist in augmented reality
You can clearly see that these are not real shadows.

You can also deploy several characters into the same scene, unlike Holo where you can only put one (probably due to performance restrictions). Furthermore, the 3D models are of a very high-quality and there is no texture pixelation, at least far less than what you see in Holo’s characters.

There is also collision detection, which means 3D characters can bump and move other 3D characters within the same scene. You can resize each character to an enormous size and still maintain very high-quality visuals.

The Vixeo characters also have real-time shadows. In Holo, I only noticed a small patch of a pre-rendered shadow effect at the bottom of the character just to make it look like it’s stuck on the floor, but you can clearly see that there are no authentic real-time shadows in Holo and the character’s body shadows actually don’t exist in the scene

These are some of the reasons why Vixeo formula works so much better than Holo’s for making creative videos.

here is a a video I made video Vixeo. Vixeo allowed me to be creative and this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed using it so much. I can become a director of my own AR movie!

 

AR Experience

Holo worked really well in AR. I was testing it using my 9.7-inch iPad 2017 so I was actually using the ARKit code. I have no idea how well it works when with the other surface detection code which is used with non-ARKit compatible iPhone and iPad mobile devices.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to deploy a hologram and manipulate it. You drag it to move it around, resize it and rotate it using pinch gestures. The UI is well designed and very easy to use and navigate through.

Conclusion

Holo make itself useful only if you actually use it to share a moment with the figures being part of an interesting area or having a pet, you or your friends in it. There is just no use for it for anything else.

My main problem with it is that you are limited to the type of characters that the developer decides to add to the app. You have no way to import your own holograms. This really limits the app potential compared to other camera apps that use 3D objects and allow users to import their own 3D models into the scene. There is a nice selection of characters, but you are still limited.

The reason why animated gifs are so popular in messaging and social apps is because the huge selection of images and the ability of users to create their own animated gifs from videos mix and match their own content within it.

Holo app can’t do that and this is where it falls short. This is why I found it more gimmicky and practical. I just don’t see myself using it to create cool videos or photos. I might use it a few times if I find a certain character that can really help me create an entertaining scene. There are a total of 53 characters in the app as of the time of writing. This is certainly not enough. People want to be able to quickly find an image or animated footage that fits their scene they are thinking of producing. They are used to do that by searching for certain keywords and they expect to find a large selection of items to choose from—Holo lens doesn’t do that, only to a very limited extent.

The idea is nice and it definitely shows a great use of the AR technology. Without giving the users the option to create their own holograms or having more interactive features, I just can’t see this app taking off. It’s just too limited and gimmicky in its current stage. Overall, a fun app with a potential to become so much better. I’ll continue to monitor it and see if the developer has any plans to improve it and maybe plans to add one of the features that I’ve mentioned in this review.

Download this app from the App store here.

Leave a Reply