Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset has been announced at MWC 2019. It brings new enhancements and advanced features with it. This includes more than two times the field of view, 47 pixels per degree which improve visuals quality and readability. The HoloLens 2 also design for more comfort.
HoloLens 2 Key Features
Microsoft compared this leap to a jump from a 720p to 2K viewing experience—for each eye. So yes, 2K displays for each eye. Microsoft used advanced display technology that allows it to produce displays that are more advanced but also smaller in size, making the entire HoloLens 2 headset itself smaller and more comfortable than its predecessor.
HoloLens 2 also introduces a new hand recognition hardware that goes beyond standard gestures, supporting direct manipulation of virtual objects.
HoloLens 2 also supports precise eye-tracking which now allows developers to understand user’s intent, which head posture itself sometimes can tell the exact intent. The head might look into a certain direction, but the eyes might look at a direction shifted from the headpose and move and follow certain objects. So by having the head posture and eye-tracking, developers will be able to better understand user’s intent when developing their own apps.
Regarding ergonomics, Microsoft has scanned the heads of thousands of people in order to come up with a universal ergonomic design that can fit the widest and most diverse range of people. It also fits people who wear glasses as well.
Regarding material product design. The entire front is made of carbon fiber, making it lightweight yet durable construction. This means that it will be able to sustain bumps and this is obviously important when used in workplaces where this type of durability is very important to ensure a long lifespan of the device.
Microsoft also distributed the weight so you won’t feel more weight at the front, but at the center of weight, therefore, you’ll be able to use the HoloLens 2 more comfortably for a longer period of time. This is again, very important for both the enterprise market and the consumer market. Imagine a surgeon using the device for a few hours straight, or a gamer playing a mixed reality game for the HoloLens 2 for a long period of time. Needing to take a break because of discomfort isn’t something you want to experience in mixed reality. You want the product to feel seamless as wearing glasses or a hat, without feeling discomfort in a relatively short period of time.
Alex Kipman mentioned in his HoloLens 2 reveal that Microsoft has improved the comfort by more than 3 times (whatever this means). Companies like to use numbers because it’s obviously easy to grasp the differences compared to previous produces. So what we can understand that the new HoloLens headset is much more comfortable compared to the first HoloLens.
HoloLens 2 Specs
Let’s take a quick look at the Microsoft HoloLens 2 key specifications:
- Resolution: 2K 3:2 light engines in each eye
- Holographic density: >2.5K radiants (light points per radian)
- Optics: See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 850
- Wireless: 802.11ac (2×2). Bluetooth 5.0
- Wired: USB-C
- Camera: 8MP stills, 1080p video recording
- Speakers: Built-in, spatial audio
- Depth sensor: Azure Kinect sensor
- Hand-tracking: two-handed fully articulated model, direct manipulation
- Eye-tracking: Real-time tracking
- Voice: Command and control on-device, Natural Language with internet connectivity
- Other features: eye-tracking, head-tracking (headpose), 6DoF world-scale positional tracking, Windows Hello authentication
- Software: Windows Holographic Operating System, Edge, Dynamic 365 Remote Assist, Dynamics 365 Layout, Dynamics 365 Guides, 3D Viewer, OneDrive for Business
Microsoft also improved the underlying software alongside the more advanced software, It made sure that the HoloLens 2 is more accessible and easy to operate.
After Alex Kipman finished his first presentation, he invited Julia Schwartz to the stage to demonstrate the HoloLens 2 capabilities.
Instinctual Interaction is the term Julia used to explain how easy it is to interact with the user interface in the new HoloLens 2 headset.
First of all, the HoloLens OS automatically signs in when the user puts on the device on their head, no extra step needed. By signing in, this means that the HoloLens 2 recognizes the same exact person that is wearing the device.
Hand recognition is enabled instantly with fully articulated hand tracking, which immediately reminded me of Leap Motion technology when I first saw that demonstration. It was amazing seeing how the HoloLens continues its calibration to match the particular user’s hand, which result in better visualization in apps and better accuracy.
The first things you see when you put your headset on is your Mixed Reality home, which is kind of equivalent to your desktop o home screen on your mobile phone in a way. It’s there where you can browse through your apps and launch them.
The interaction is done using your own hand. Microsoft has created something really beautiful, where the Holograms in the home screen respond to your hand, showing kind of an animated glow around where you hand is located relative to the virtual content—like it’s in inviting you to interact with it. Some of these “icons” are also animated.
Any interaction that you are familiar with on mobile or on a desktop like moving the icons to a different location is there, including a 3D rotation, because after all, we are in mixed reality now, this is not your well known flat home screen any longer. You can also touch and move your hand forward and backward to resize the app launch icon and it’s super intuitive It’s very easy to manipulate the content in your own space, as you do in your own physical space, so there is no reason why this won’t feel and be similar to a standard physical interaction.
I’ve paid attention to the hand gestures and they are very simple. You can drag a corner to resize the icon. The highlighting of the edges of the content in your home screen is important because it reveals, similar to a resize lines in Adobe Photoshop, the areas where you can interact with. You can see the boundaries of the icon, and then precisely position your hand and apply the different supported gestures, like holding it, pinching the line and move your hand to rotate it or pinch at the center and move your hand to move it to another location. To resize the app, you can hold it with each hand in the top corners, pinch it and then make your hands move closers or further from each other to enlarge or reduce the size of the app.
The moment I saw this, I thought to myself, how will be able to interact with far away objects. Well, a moment later in the presentation, Julia interacted with a browser app that was far away from her, by saying “Follow me” as she stared at the browser window, which made the browser window flow towards her and be located in front of her eyes—I was blown away at that moment. In fact, the browser was keeping following her as she interacted with a second app—talking about multitasking!
Another cool option was seeing how she launched the startup menu by dragging it out from her arm and see it enlarged in front of her. I need to read about it later.
For me, it was interesting to see how Microsoft UI team approached user interaction with different types of controls. In the “Playground” prototype app that they used internally, Julia demonstrated different types of controls like how a user interacts with a simple slider widget in mixed reality. It obviously becomes very similar for web developers, and it was interesting to see how Microsoft took these type of familiar controls and adapt them to their own MR UI.
Among the slider options that she has shown on the presentation, the pinch and slide were the more intuitive and fun to use. You just pinch on the slider handle and continue pinching as you drag the slider from side to side. Adding audio was also very important to make sure you get the feeling of each stop for each nob as you slide the handle across the slider range. This is, of course, similar to standard physical interaction with many devices that we already use in our own homes, like the increase temperature slider in electric appliances. So in that aspect, it seems that just following the well-known physical-world product design paradigms can work well for mixed reality interaction as well, but of course, mixed reality opens up a whole new world of user interaction possibilities.
Button interaction was so simple, but amazing to watch in that presentation. Julia also demonstrated 10-hand interaction by playing on a virtual piano in front of her. This one I have to try for myself because I really want to see how it feels playing a virtual piano without having no physical feedback.
It think that developers will be able to enable different types of interactions, because, from my own experience using hand interaction with AR, it can lead to hand fatigue quite fast, so having alternative user interaction options or balancing the user interaction correctly by designing the app so it won’t require a lengthy interaction all at once for a relatively long period of time. This is something that I’ll need to read more about, and I do hope that Microsoft put some design guidelines documentation for the HoloLens 2 so I can read more about it.
No doubt, “Instinctual Interaction” is a great phrase to describe what I’ve seen in the presentation, I was very impressed with what I’ve seen, well done Microsoft. Definitely a user-centric device.
HoloLens 2 Price
I just starting my way learning more about Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset and its ecosystem. No doubt that Microsoft has delivered an impressive product.
As for the price, the HoloLens 2 is available for preorder on Microsoft.com website. There are two packages: the HoloLens 2 and the HoloLens 2 with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist. The HoloLens 2 box includes the device itself, carrying case, overhead strap, microfiber cloth, charger, and USB-cable.
The price for the HoloLens 2 is $3500, which is more than the $3000 of the first-generation HoloLens.
That’s a hefty launch price, but as I could asses things right now, Microsoft’s main focus is on the enterprise. Obviously, not many consumers will be able to afford to buy a $3500 device. This means that the consumer market reach will be very limited, yet again.
Businesses are the first one to want to adopt these type of technologies as these technologies increase productivity, provide needed solutions for various problems within the organization, and give them a quick return of investment. If you’ve seen the online presentation at MWC 2019 at Barcelona, you see that the HoloLEns 2 can be beneficial for many types of businesses, not just in the training phase, but in the actual production line among other uses.
So this is it for now. I have a lot of reading to do. I bring you more interesting insights as I learn more about HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset and its capabilities. Cheers.