Last month at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Microsoft unveiled HoloLens 2. It is Microsoft’s 2nd iteration Augmented Reality headset (or head-mounted display unit. The 1st gen Microsoft’s HoloLens was commercialized in 2016. The HoloLens 2 shares the similar standalone design as the current HoloLens, with several new features and improvements.
Although HoloLens 2 is not on the market yet, it has created a lot of buzz about the promises/potentials and what it can bring to AR industry. Here are the things you need to know about the upcoming Microsoft HoloLens 2.
1. Greater Field of View
The biggest buzz of HoloLens 2 is its improved field of view. The current HoloLens has a field of view of around 35 degrees, which is considered to be one of the biggest limitations of viewing AR content on HoloLens. Basically, 35 degrees means you are looking at a narrow band of content that is displayed through the display. Looking upward or downward will make the AR view go away.
Listening to the overwhelming feedback, Microsoft has improved the field of view as a priority in the 2nd gen HoloLens. HoloLens 2 claims to have 2x field of view angle which is expected to be around 70 degrees. However, other analysis has indicated that 70 degrees might be a bit of a stretch and the true field of view angle is around 52 degrees.
Although the true experience will remain to be seen when the product becomes available later this year, the improvement on the important specification of field of view is undebatable.
2. Comfort Level
Another complaint (grip) about first gen HoloLens is that it does not fit well. The unit could easily slide off or be too tight. The weight is not balanced between front and back. Therefore, the whole unit is not very ergonomically designed to wear for longer time.
Based on some early feedback from people who tried HoloLens 2, it is indeed more comfortable, with the improvement on weight distribution, foam pad comfort, and convenient design of flip-up display. This will likely be a well-received improvement among user base once the product hits the market.
3. Hand-tracking and Interaction
First generation HoloLens work with only two hand gestures: pinching thumb and index fingers, and opening hand. This has limited application in user interaction with the software interface.
Microsoft spent a lot of energy developing more hand-tracking controlled interaction in HoloLens 2. Early demos showed that user can reposition, turn and resize virtual objecting by various additional hand gestures such as grabbing, pinching, swiping, etc. This means that interaction with the software interface will be more intuitive and free flowing.
As a newly added feature, eye-tracking on HoloLens 2 is very exciting. One of Microsoft’s demos showed integration of eye-tracking with voice recognition. Basically, by gazing at something and saying some words, the interface will link what was said to what is being viewed. This can certainly yield some useful applications in product design, training and inspection for example. The other exciting demonstration of the eye-tracking capability is the ability to use eye movements for scrolling text. By looking down at the bottom of a window, the eye-tracking function enables the text to continue scrolling.
If the question is whether HoloLens 2 has improved from 1st gen unit, the answer is a definite YES. The new features make it highly one of the most anticipated new launch this year from Microsoft. If the question is whether HoloLens 2 is a game changer for AR industry, the answer is a maybe. It certainly targets enterprise applications, such as remote assistance, virtual model interaction and training. With the improved features, it does become more attractive in industries that have interests in applying AR technology.
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