Four years ago Microsoft released the original Hololens. This was Microsoft's initial foray into the world of augmented reality(AR) devices.
While not a common sight in consumer electronic stores, the 1st-generation Hololens instead became a major hit with industrial and manufacturing companies. Given the success of the first generation Hololens, Microsoft announced the release of a new version dubbed Hololens 2.
The HoloLens is a mixed reality headset, meaning that it produces holograms that interact with in the real world as you’re viewing it. Microsoft initially marketed the HoloLens towards engineering companies and architecture firms but the technology has a wide range of potential applications beyond these fields.
Healthcare companies, for example, use Hololens to educate and train personnel. Other cutting-edge organizations like NASA and Formula One Racing use the technology to work faster and more efficiently. Excitingly, researchers have stated the Hololens could be very helpful to the blind, assisting them to navigate complex urban landscapes or large buildings, for example.
One of the early adopters of the original headset was the Mattel toy company, where employees use Hololens to collaborate with colleagues around the world. When working on a new project, Mattel constructs a “Virtual Wall” where documents and designs are posted and edited in real time. Another early adopter was Trimble, who developed a mixed reality system to assist construction workers on the job site. Using Trimble's software, the Hololens overlays the user's view with schematics of the part of the building they are looking at.This allows works to cut through walls without damaging pipes or electrical conduits, for example.
The Announcement at Mobile World Congress 2019
This month Microsoft released the newest version of the device, the HoloLens 2. Microsoft has upgraded the device in quite a few areas, including moving most of the hardware to the back, making it less cumbersome and front heavy. Microsoft has also engineered the front visor containing the lens to flip up and out of the way of the user. The body is now carbon fiber, also reducing the overall weight of the device, and the viewing area of the lens has been doubled. Two of the most interesting internal features are eye tracking—so the device always knows where you are looking and what you are looking at—and an upgraded gesture recognition system that replaces the pinch gestures from the original. This allows you to interact with the 3D images more efficiently than before. Wired has a helpful article comparing the Hololens 2 specs to other mixed reality platforms.
The Software Behind the Headset
Beyond the headset itself, the HoloLens 2 was developed using Windows 10 as its operating system, and is built with solid footing in the cloud. Unlike its predecessor that was sold by itself unless you purchased the developer bundle, this version of the headset is paired with Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365. Dynamics 365 includes a set of tools to help you more efficiently take advantage of the headset’s features. You aren’t required to use either of the applications to purchase the headset, but if you do subscribe to the services you get a substantial discount for the hardware.
As with all hardware, the longevity of HoloLens is somewhat determined by the accompanying software that is released and is eventually developed for it. While this generation of the device is not geared toward consumer markets, several developers such as Mozilla have already said that they will be developing software to run on the headset.
As always, we will keep an eye on the newest updates for the HoloLens 2 and will let you know about any significant developments surrounding this exciting and evolving technology.
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