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HoloLens, Microsoft, VR and Apple


I’m really looking forward to an event at tretton17 next week, where Jimmy Engström will demonstrate the awesome Microsoft Hololens.

HoloLens

I haven’t had the opportunity to try the HoloLens yet, but I think it looks really promising. Even if many of the videos I’ve seen have been conceptual future visions of what may come out, it’s an appealing vision.

Alex Kipman’s TED Talk Demo

In this TED, Alex Kipman demonstrates the huge potential with the HoloLens.

My first impression of this vid is that the headset looks super-slick. It has no cables and lets Alex walk around without cables pulling on his head and keeping him restrained. Most of the VR headsets on the market today (PSVR, Oculus and Vive) are amazing, but limit a fluent interaction with the virtual world, since the cables become umbilical cords that constantly interferes with your native movement. This actually makes me not enjoy 360 environments as much in PS VR, as I do when use products like the cordless Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard.

Second, I love that a video camera can wear a second HoloLens and see what the person wearing the headset sees. I first saw this at a Microsoft conference, where a camera recorded a person looking at a table, when suddenly a Minecraft world slides up from the table and appears to be standing on the table. This makes it so much easier to relate to the technology, and fun to watch how amazing environments are being displayed to the user.

Third, I first thought that Alex had a black tattoo on one of his finger, but it turned out to be a device that lets you “feel” the virtual world. You could see the device being placed over his palm, when he opened his hands. I don’t know how well this technology works, but making haptic feedback easily available in VR without requiring that you actively hold a device (like the PS Move) seems amazing.

Finally, Alex brings a friend on stage - a friend that is a couple of blocks away, recorded by a 3D camera while wearing a HoloLens of his own. They talk and the guy is interviewed and it all is sooo natural, until you watch the stage and find it empty. Sure, the technology is not 100% - with some blur and inaccurate rendering, but it’s soooo cool when you think of where this technolgy will be in 10 years.

To sum up this video, these are the key takeaways:

  • Super-slick headset - no cables, easy to put on
  • Nice to be able to record how a user experiences the augmented reality
  • Really cool hand-device that let’s you “feel” the environment
  • Amazing demo of virtual meetings

Microsoft - the future?

What is so amazing with the HoloLens, is that it so clearly shows the difference between the Microsoft and Apple of today. The HoloLens is more of an idea and a vision than a consumer-ready product, but Microsoft chose to actively demonstrate it in its current state - not revealing it while also announcing to launch it as a consumer product.

This puts Apple in a strange position. Apple could never have done what Microsoft does now, at least not with the shackles of today. They live on their reputation of releasing technology “that just works”. When they reveal a new product, it’s most often ready to be sent to users. Releasing an unfinished or conceptual product isn’t Apple’s style.

I love Apple and their products, but this perfection comes with a price. Without this reputation and the restrictions it brings, Microsoft can become the new innovative force that shows what they work on years before they ever release it, if they ever do. Given Apple’s financial success with the current business model, they may not want this position at all, but this doesn’t change the fact that it makes Microsoft the “cool” and “exciting” company, which is something that has been attributed to Apple for many years.

Where to next?

When discussing VR, some think that VR is now proven to be a failed technology. I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, PSVR is by no means perfect. Nor is the HTC Vive and I guess this also goes for the HoloLens. However, I think it’s important to state that perfection is not always the most important thing.

Don’t get me wrong - the technology must work, but the products of today don’t have to be perfect, at least not now. The most important thing for the products of today, is to show that the technology works and to set a course for the future, where such a course can be set by both identifying what works and what does not work.

Many of us grown ups have been waiting our whole lives for VR to work. I’m sooo happy to now, after buying the so-so Sony HMZ-T1 some years ago, finally have an amazing VR experience in my living room. The technology works. Now, we just need to iterate upon it, make the hardware better, the user interface more intuitive the lag less noticable etc. to find the future of this new exciting world.