With HoloLens 2 Microsoft Focuses on Mixed Reality's Time to Value
This article was originally publish on design news on feb 27, 2019
With the HoloLens 2 Microsoft is focusing on turning its mixed reality headset into a platform to create immediate value for design engineers and enterprises.
By Chris Wiltz
Microsoft has unveiled HoloLens 2, the newest version of its HoloLens mixed reality headset. This time the company is looking to turn its headset into more of a design engineering platform than a peripheral or tool.
In a press conference to open Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 in Barcelona, Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow in AI and Mixed Reality at Microsoft, said the improvements made to HoloLens 2 were based on feedback from Microsoft's enterprise customers. “Our customers asked us to focus on three key areas to make HoloLens even better. They wanted HoloLens 2 to be even more immersive, more comfortable, and to accelerate the time to value,” he said.
You New Favorite Hat
The new HoloLens 2 runs on the second-generation of Microsoft's proprietary holographic processing unit (HPU), a processor optimized for running mixed reality apps and displaying holographic images. The HPU sits on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 platform, which combines a Qualcomm CPU and GPU. Qualcomm has particularly touted the Snapdragon 850 for its low power consumption and power management capabilities – an important factor when running the sort of graphically-intense mixed reality applications that Hololens handles.
In terms of immersion, the HoloLens 2 has nearly doubled the field-of-view of the original HoloLens while still maintaining the pixel density (47 pixels per degree of sight) necessary for clarity and precise interactions. “It's like moving from a 720P TV to a 2K TV for each of your eyes,” Kipman told the MWC audience. “With HoloLens 2 we invented an industry-defining MEMS display...the smallest, most power-efficient 2K displays on the market.”
The HoloLens 2 also includes eye tracking, allowing the headset to sense where the wearer is looking to add an extra degree of control in addition to voice commands and hand gestures into a system Microsoft calls “instinctual interaction.” Hand tracking now calibrates itself to the wearer's hand size and manipulating holograms with hand gestures now has an ease and feel akin to manipulating windows on a 2D desktop screen. Users can move, rotate, and adjust the size of the holograms using simple motions such as grabbing and pulling on an object's corners. The goal of instinctual interaction, according to Microsoft, is to actually allow users to touch and more directly interact with holograms.
Kipamn added that the HoloLens' comfort has also been augmented. He said Microsoft 3D-scanned the heads of thousands of individuals across ages, genders, and ethnicities and used that data to create a more ergonomic, comfortable headset (even for those who wear glasses). The weight distribution has been adjusted and the overall weight has been reduced by making the front enclosure entirely out of carbon fiber. “Putting [HoloLens 2] on should be as simple as putting on your favorite hat,” Kipman said.