Hands-On with HoloLens 2

Posted on February 26, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Windows 10 with 60 Comments

HoloLens 2 is a significant improvement over the original: It’s more comfortable and natural to use and features a broader field of view.

And boy. It’s hard to know where to start.

My initial reaction to HoloLens 2 is entirely positive. Microsoft has taken the central success of the original device—its ability to root virtual objects, or holograms, in the real world in a way that is so realistic and believable that it fools your brain—and expanded that capability to include both eye tracking and hand tracking. The result is a far more natural experience that doesn’t require any training or, from what I can tell, a complicated setup.

My first HoloLens experience four years ago was a dramatically more complex experience. At that time, the prototype versions of the device we used were tethered with multiple cables, creating an “Alien”-like science fiction sensation. That first device, as it moved from prototype to developer-oriented production machine, was also somewhat limited by its thin, mail slot-like field of view. And the device itself was, of course, fairly big and heavy. Clumsy, really. And my God did it require a lot of configuration, which at the time was a time-consuming manual affair.

All of that is improved with HoloLens 2.

The device itself is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, but even more noticeably it is more comfortable and not at all clumsy. You place HoloLens 2 on your head much like a hat and just get to work.

In the initial demo I did, the rough field of view was clearly visible thanks to a bounding rectangle and it is a bit wider and much taller than before. I believe Microsoft is claiming a 2X improvement here and that seems about right. It is dramatically better.

But the eye and hand tracking are even more impressive. You just need to look at objects—without moving your head—to interact with them in new ways. Sensing your attention, the holograms can make sounds, pulsate or move, or whatever, to indicate that you can now do more. And thanks to the hand tracking, you can reach out, grab them, resize them, push buttons, and perform other actions very naturally.

HoloLens 2 audio didn’t get enough attention at the announcement. It’s immersive and directional as before, and it really helps to drive home the realism of the experience. Built-in microphones help you interact with holograms, or the interface, with your voice as well.

I’m a bit scattered here, sorry. But the demo was impressive and futuristic, and now that we have a better idea of how holographic interfaces will be used in the real world, the improvements here are more clearly meaningful and impactful. Where HoloLens felt like a proof of concept, HoloLens 2 is more refined, more powerful, and more useful. This device is going to trigger an explosion of AR applications in businesses. And lead us to a future in which this technology finally makes its way to individuals.



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Comments (60)

60 responses to “Hands-On with HoloLens 2”

  1. proesterchen

    You don't look goofy in this at all, and let no one ever tell you that you do!

  2. duncanator

    That's great to hear! Hopefully the average consumer will get something before 2023. Of course, MS will probably kill it before then anyway, but I'm not bitter over liking something they've made only to have them abandon it shortly thereafter.

  3. skane2600


    I know, I'm fighting a losing battle. Dennis Gabor, forgive us.

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to skane2600:

      <sigh> Yeah. Lost cause.

      I blame Star Trek: The Next Generation and their "holodeck" with "solid holograms".

      • HellcatM

        In reply to MikeGalos: And The Orville has a holodeck type area too. But I remember watching STNG and thinking "I wish we had that, it would be the ultimate gaming area, and exercise and many other things". But Hololens does seem like a cool idea. I still think they should do AR and VR in one headset. IF Microsoft could pull that off they'd have a home run for sure.

        • MikeGalos

          In reply to HellcatM:

          Yes, but in The Orville they don't call it a "holo" anything. It's an Environmental Simulator.

        • Rob_Wade

          In reply to HellcatM:

          If they can make the lenses opaque when straight up VR is needed, that would probably do it. The only downside with that--based on the current design--is that, unlike the WMR headsets, the HL2 headsets are not enclosed. WMR headsets shield you from exterior light/visibility to aid in the immersive effect. It's not an insurmountable problem, but it's something to consider.

      • skane2600

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        Yes, and Star Wars although it was people watching that called it that, not the script.

  4. bbold

    I'm excited about the future of this device. $3,500 is obviously a bit high, but maybe not for developers. As the price comes down, and as the device becomes a little more consumer-focused, I feel we will really see this thing explode. Businesses first, obviously. Great preview, Paul! A+

  5. MacLiam

    Both the Kipman presentation and what I read afterwards have left me confused: Is the $3500 version a developer package or is it also available to well-heeled enthusiasts and the simply curious?

    Four years ago, the Hololens 1 introduction emphasized games and education, but promised cooperative productivity. This week we saw the upgraded device pitched to enterprise users as the answer to complex problems in mechanical maintenance, inventory management, and a bunch of other stuff that can be developed on an ad hoc basis if it's not already available for industry-specific uses.

    The promise of a consumer-oriented Hololens in the future made me wander if it is planned as a less complex and less feature-rich device in order to keep price down.

    Let me ask everyone -- and maybe Paul in particular -- is this something you would buy now if the price were not an obstacle? And if you did pick one up, to what use would you expect to put it with currently available software?

  6. Shane


    I thought I would start how you finished. I did watch the stream and was impressed. But it is YOUR short review that has more meaning.

    I don't think in all the years I have read your reviews and posts have you been like this about a product.

    Yes I think Microsoft has hit on something special.

    And I look forward to the years ahead how this will push forward the industry in this area.

  7. biff

    Oh! I can really tell when your on your meds. :) Today you are not a grumpy old pessimistic Microsoft wet blanket. Refreshing!

  8. Hoomgar

    Look at Paul sportin' the button-down, chest hair showing...  What all exactly were you running in there Paul?  :D

  9. nicholas_kathrein

    So it sounds like another few versions of this (2 or 3 more years) and this could be ready for consumers. Then it will be down to software being made for it and hopefully battery tech will be much better by then. I'm not sure how long the battery life is currently but I'd bet 3 hrs or less. These will need closer to 8 hrs for work environments. I'd assume this will become as or more important then their laptops.

  10. atlantapaul

    Why isn't this product being developed for the consumer market, Paul?

    • Demileto

      In reply to AtlantaPaul:

      Alex Kipman addressed this in his The Verge interview (source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/24/18235460/microsoft-hololens-2-price-specs-mixed-reality-ar-vr-business-work-features-mwc-2019):

      "Why is it not a consumer product? It’s not as immersive as you want it to be. It’s more than twice as immersive as the previous one, [but it’s] still not immersive enough for that consumer off the street to go use it. It’s still not comfortable enough … I would say that until these things are way more immersive than the most immersive product, way more comfortable than the most comfortable product, and at or under $1,000, I think people are kidding themselves in thinking that these products are ready."

  11. richfrantz

    Is this v2, or 3? Because I thought we were skipping 2 and going right to 3.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to richfrantz:

      version 3. MS should try to upgrade it yearly and release every other one. In 2 to 4 years the improvement will be so great that people will be willing to pay the $500 that they hopefully will be able to sell it for as the parts and prices hopefully come down a lot.

  12. sharpsone

    This will win over a number of businesses as the product evolves. I bet the military would love this and MS should sell it regardless of what employees think about militarization. Afterall this is a US company, risks to global trade and the economy impacts MS either way... you can stand idle on morals or push forward to keep America at the forefront while securing future profitability. Imagine one of these in a flight helmet or on the ground for army drone ops anywhere in the world. Paul's excitement level confirms this is a major leap over Gen 1 and if they made this much progress in 4 years imagine what Gen 3 will look like? Are you ready player one?

  13. Rob_Wade

    As cool as all that is, the sad fact is the overwhelming majority of people will never, ever see it. At least not from Microsoft. We'll have to depend on companies that are consumer-friendly to bring this sort of tech to people outside of the enterprise.

    • warren

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      Well.... yeah, Rob. The business use cases for this sort of product vastly outweigh the home uses, so Microsoft is doing the right thing here in focusing on where the big wins are at.

      I work for Autodesk and we are seeing a ton of traction and interest from our engineering and construction customers on the HoloLens front. People here are excited because Microsoft has addressed the #1 problem with the original HoloLens -- field of view. This is going to let us get into some really interesting areas around architecture, building lifetime management and so on, and it'll be easier for companies to justify the cost.

      We're actually happy that Microsoft didn't compromise on device capability to get it down to a consumer-level price point. That means the device can be -really- good. This was actually one of the reasons why the original Kinect was a failure -- instead of having all the visual processing happen on the device (more $$$), the work was offloaded to the CPU, making it unsuitable for integration into already CPU-heavy games.

      • Rob_Wade

        In reply to warren:

        I'm absolutely not disagreeing the business use cases. My point has been that Microsoft is slowly ignoring the consumer market. As a consumer, I could definitely use the tech. I direct and act in community theater in my spare time. I would love to wear a completely mobile set, walk into the theater and begin visualizing and designing sets, etc., against the blank canvas, if you will, of the empty stage.

        But, let's be honest, as Microsoft pulls away from consumer products, public awareness of Microsoft will begin to decline. Only businesses--and probably not the small or home businesses--will have interaction on the more advanced things. Meanwhile, other OEMs and Apple and Google and Amazon will push harder into the consumer market. Who cares about IBM anymore? So, this stuff is very cool, but it's hard for me to remain interested if Microsoft keeps pulling a Brie Larson "We didn't make this for you".

    • solomonrex

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      Even if it's impact and distribution are limited to enterprise business usage, you still have the 'overwhelming majority' of people seeing it when working in certain jobs, at school, reviewing home improvement projects, new house construction, shopping for cars, etc. Many of the top business uses are consumer facing. It has to start somewhere, after all.

    • locust infested orchard inc

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      Well don't go blaming Microsoft for consumers turning their back on the best of the tech out there.

      When Microsoft released Windows 10 Mobile, the consumers – incorporating the iSheeple and AdSheeple – didn't flinch even for a moment, and they carried on regardless with their iPharce and Blandroid devices.

      The magical and magnificent tech for enterprises was available to the consumer, but alas both the iSheeple and AdSheeple were too entranced, failing to even give recognition of the existence of the vastly superior Windows 10 Mobile.

      Sadly the obituary has already been written for Windows 10 Mobile.

      • Hoomgar

        In reply to locust infested orchard inc:  I'm still running it on my Icon with great success.  It's going to take more than just a few non-developed apps to make me switch.

        • locust infested orchard inc

          In reply to Hoomgar:

          Before responding to your comment, isn't it bizarre for someone to down-vote you solely because you continue with the awesome Nokia Lumia Icon ? Evidently the iSheeple and Fandroids are on the prowl this evening with nothing better to do, having exhausted themselves with Fakebook, Twatter, Instagratification, and YouLube.

          I'm ever so pleased for you that your Lumia Icon is still going strong. That is testament to the fact the Nokia Lumias were well engineered for longevity.

          It is disheartening that the W10M shall reach EOL in Dec 2019, but as it is said, all good things must come to an end.

          I am hopeful that Satya Nadella, fully recognising the error of his predessor Steve Ballmer, will get all the various hardware, the OS, and their modular components for each hardware spot in, such that all form factors running Windows Core OS will shine through.

          The unknown though is, will Andromeda actually be released, and if so, will it have it have cellular telephony capabilities. Should it be on the cards, then a Q1/Q2 2020 release date is likely.

      • Rob_Wade

        In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

        I'm not talking about W10Mobile, here. I'm talking about the HoloLens. I'm speaking as someone who, as an owner of an Acer WMR headset only because my wife gave it to me as a Christmas present, recognizes the limited use-case for regular VR. I also recognize that, even with significantly lower prices, Windows VR isn't taking off like it could. Since you brought up Windows Mobile, I will tell you that I used AR on mine quite regularly. The Here City Lens apps was (and still is, on my Lumia 1020) a fantastic use of AR. Extremely practical, and Microsoft, stupidly, has refused to adopt such capability in their own Maps app. AR and VR each have their unique application, but also some overlapping. HL could become that blend at some point, but not at these prices. I've said before, I want Tony Stark's world. I want ubiquitous voice control and response and I want to be able to "call up" an app wherever I'm at. But the tech is only partially there, and to get close you have to spend and arm and a leg. Plus, I still maintain not a single company really gets it, nor is anyone truly making advances to that end state. Maybe I just have a much more future-looking longing, but as a consumer, that's what I want.

      • skane2600

        In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

        I disagree with Rob's comment but despite being a long-time Windows Phone user, I disagree with yours as well. The failure of MS's mobile efforts are primarily MS's own fault. From a failure to get carriers on board, from introducing their WP8 late (distracted by the "One Windows" development strategy), for not incentivising developers to the degree they could have and for limited advertisement.

        • locust infested orchard inc

          In reply to skane2600:

          Actually skane2600 you are absolutely correct with the reasons of the failure of WP/W10M.

          I responded to the member Rob_Wade in the way I did as he stated, though the HoloLens is cool, Microsoft wouldn't see it as cool enough for the consumer, hence it was restrained for the corporate market.

          Then I felt obliged to remind him that WP/W10M was an enterprise-ready OS, with Microsoft making it available to the consumer. But the consumer is Applephilic, Googlephilic, and Microsoftphobic...

          • Rob_Wade

            In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

            Now, see, I disagree that WP/W10M was enterprise-ready. In fact, I got tired of reading articles about how the enterprise was complaining about this or that limitation to deploying the devices the way they wanted to. No, Microsoft's biggest problems there were they were late to the party and they kept restarting their own OS. It frustrated those who embraced it, it frustrated those trying to develop for it.

  14. coldunn

    What is the distance like between the visor and your face? I'm asking as a glasses wearer. The height it sits on your head is good and doesn't look like it would interfere with glasses, but the main concern is at the front. I'm also interested in the eye tracking with someone wearing glasses too. Was anyone there wearing glasses when you were testing?

  15. Tony Barrett

    A positive review does not make a product. Hololens is just a tool - still with some serious limitations. MS are implying now that they'll focus on the Enterprise, specifically markets than *can* make use of a device like this - and there are indeed some, where the price won't be such an issue. Let's be clear though, this will never be a consumer product - it just doesn't make sense from so many angles. MS are dreaming if they think the average person would ever invest in something like this - VR/AR is already on consumer life support as it is.

  16. locust infested orchard inc

    This is awesome Paul !!! Possibly the most exciting device you're reviewed in years (and fun, going by the photo). By the sounds of it, HoloLens v2 just got even better by Magic Leaps and bounds. :-D

    I've been trying over the last year or so to keep in touch with the applications that various industries have made use of HoloLens v1, particularly in the surgical operating theatre, as a adjunct to MRI scanning, alleviating the condition in autistic children, in the construction industry, and in the automotive industry. With the industry applications being numerous, I struggle to keep up with the frenetic pace of HoloLens usage scenarios.

    HoloLens is truly a technological force of good, and we shall hopefully see the US Army soldiers equipped with a bespoke ruggedized version to deal with unsavoury dictators and their military stooges, swiftly ending the misery of millions of innocent civilians unduly caught up in war.

    Can HoloLens really make this World a better place for all ? Well, it seems we're headed that way.

  17. IanYates82

    Neat first impression. Keen to watch this tech improve and get cheaper over the coming years. I can see even just having Hololens available in an office environment could be handy - you glance over at your wall and you can see some information, the fridge has some info above it, etc. Instead of opening apps and managing tasks, you can ground those concepts in related real-world things. That's got to aid in quick understanding and boost your ability to retain information.

  18. Daekar

    I am so glad to hear that you were impressed! I knew that you were completely unimpressed with V1, so it's encouraging to see you feel differently about this version.

    Would love to see more about this, the ways it's being used by customers, or really anything else related.

  19. Jim Lewis

    Great to hear. Given my age and the rate things are going, I probably won't be around on the planet when an affordable (and useful!) consumer version is actually available but it's great to hear that things are actually headed in that direction.

  20. wftw2016

    Nice review Paul! Did you get the default demo (construction or medical) or was it more elaborate for the press?

    How did you experience the interaction with buttons? Maybe I was a bit inept but it felt a bit uneasy.

  21. jtdwab

    Cool, glad you got to try one on. I would love to sometime, course I would really like it to be a consumer device but maybe next year. Time will tell.

  22. dcdevito

    Gaming just looks like an obvious avenue for this thing, and Tim Sweeney did get on stage and confirm that. I just wish it was here sooner.

  23. jules_wombat

    So did you like it ?

    One query is that there will be no Developers Edition, 'only for Enterprises' intending to make use of the devices. What does that eman. Does that mean developers cannot buy single HoloLens 2 units to develop against, or do they have to convince Microsoft of an intended application.

  24. irfaanwahid

    I have used version 1 for as little as 5min during a session when Microsoft came over to Nairobi.

    It was a great experience and I loved the device.

    I can't wait to try version 2.