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The HoloLens Experience

A first-hand account

The HoloLens Experience
Very much in beta

Today, I visited the Microsoft Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City for the HoloLens Developer Demo Session. I had registered for it sometime in November if my memory serves me correctly. After seeing all the hype about HoloLens for the past year, I was very excited to check it out. And so, I did. The biggest disappointment was that no photography was allowed so I have no photos to show, sadly.

Introducing…

We started off with a short introductory video about HoloLens. The main takeaway was that HoloLens has three main ways of interacting with it: gaze, gesture and voice. Your gaze is like the cursor, it follows wherever you look. For gesture, only one gesture was demonstrated today and that was the "air tap", which is equivalent to a left mouse click. I am sure more will be added in the future. And the last one is voice, where you issue commands to perform specific tasks. A neat thing was that HoloLens supports people who wear spectacles without any modifications. Neat! One interesting thing was that before we were sent to the demos, our inter-pupillary distance was measured. Apparently, the final version would do this automatically but for now, it was manually fed in.

The demos

There were three sessions for the participants. The first session was a pretty basic one. A watch was projected onto a table, and one could go around and see it from different angles. The watch was then "expanded", and its different layers were shown and based on where your gaze was, the appropriate layer's information would pop up. Then, it also illustrated how you could give presentations. Your notes would always be in front of you and your gaze and gestures would control which slide is shown.

The next session was more hands on and showed off more capabilities. First, you scanned the room by looking around and HoloLens would assess the topology of the room. Then, you could take a painting out of a "toolbox" and place it on the wall. The scanning of the topology helped with that. The next part of the session had an undersea landscape shown where you could increase the number of fish, resize them, rotate them and so on. The last part was painting. There was a quadcopter placed in front of you. You could select colors from a palette and paint the different parts. You could go around the room and see the quadcopter from different angles to decide your best coloring choice.

The last session was a first-person shooter game, and it was the one where I had the most fun. You had to defend your planet against alien robots. Your gaze was where your gun shot. The "air tap" gesture acted as firing the weapon. What made it more fun was that when you were fired on, you could duck and move out of the way by actually moving. The entire 360 degree was your panorama, and you could be attacked on from any side. It was nice to play a first-person shooter by actually moving around the room and ducking from shots like some soldier.

Some Thoughts

Today's sessions were a very enjoyable experience and a glimpse into the future. What I definitely liked was that you could wear it on spectacles without any adjustments or modifications. However, I definitely had some issues with it. First off, the software was definitely very much in beta or even alpha stage. The screen would flicker sometimes and even go off completely. Gestures wouldn't be recognized, and my Indian accent definitely caused it problems. This is understandable as it is still in development. However, my biggest gripe was that your field of view for the holograms is so very small. Couple this with the fact that I felt the device to be a little on the heavier side and caused discomfort at times. This is not to take away from the positives though. The demonstrations were incredibly fun and instructive and was a small peak into the powers of this new and exciting device. It remains to be seen how the developers make use of this new augmented reality platform and what wonders can be created.

Finally, I want to thank the employees of the Microsoft Store for a wonderful and pleasant experience, and it was really nice on Microsoft's part to show off these devices to the consumer. I definitely had fun and I encourage you to sign up for it if it is there in your city!