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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