The Evolution of Mixed Reality with HoloLens 2
It took Microsoft four years to reveal its second generation of Mixed Reality headset, the HoloLens 2. It was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain on February 25th. The HoloLens is a tool that is suited to help people in education and training, health care and surgery, mechanical engineering and maintenance and service industries to be more productive. But was it worth the wait?
The beautifully made introduction video that was used in its unveiling shows the HoloLens 2 in its unique components and use of materials. It is followed by an enthusiast demonstration by Julia Schwartz, Senior Researcher, demonstrating the core features.
For a better understanding and to learn more about the vision Microsoft has for Mixed Reality, you can watch the full video registration with a keynote by Satya Nadella (CEO), followed by Julia White (Corporate Vice President) and Alex Kipman (Technical Fellow for AI and Mixed Reality).
At HSO Innovation we have been using the HoloLens 1 almost since it was introduced and have implemented applications with Dynamics 365 using functionality like object explosions and guided maintenance instruction sets.
When putting on the HoloLens 2 for the first time, you will immediately notice it’s new dramatically increased resolution and greatly expanded field of view. The field of view has been widened and enlarged overall, offering a much more immersive experience. Users complained that the earlier model only offered a limited field view. It resulted in clipping of the hologram when turning your head outside the field of view area. By projecting images of 2k native resolution onto the visor, holograms look convincingly crisp and looking through HoloLens 2 may feel like an experience of seeing your first full HD LCD, compared to the 720p standard you were used to.
Another significant improvement is the increased comfort when wearing the headset for prolonged times. Microsoft has put much attention into ergonomics. Weight has been shifted to the back of the headset to create a more balanced and comfortable device that, for example, service engineers can wear for prolonged times at intensive tasks while at the same time freeing up their hands. The main body of the device is constructed from high-quality carbon fiber, nowadays the material of choice when looking to save weight while improving stiffness. The visor flips up making it easy to make eye contact and communicate with others on the job.
There are more camera’s than ever before available to scan the environment and measuring distances to objects. Four grey-scale cameras at the sides, two color cameras in the middle and two cameras pointing at the eyes, enabling retina scanning for identification purposes and eye movement tracking. This allows for faster and easier sharing of one HoloLens between multiple users and may reduce the number of devices needed for specific jobs, cutting back on investment.
But it’s not just numbers. The most impressive camera is the so-called time-of-flight (ToF) sensor in the middle of the headset. It’s originating from the Kinect sensor that came with the Xbox One and is dedicated to depth perception. It is used in, for example, hand gesture recognition that enables wearers to manipulate holograms with a precision like never seen before. The HoloLens was of course always able to detect specific hand gestures, but the demonstrated precision combined with a near real-time detection enables more natural interaction with objects. With the newly released Dynamics 365 Guides application you will be able to build rich instructions sets more easily. There is a library available for text and frames, photos, menu’s structures, symbols and of course a set of more complex shapes.
Watch the introduction video of Dynamics 365 Guides for HoloLens 2:
In the end, the HoloLens 2 is not just a fancy high-quality industrial-grade headset with excellent visual representation capabilities. The real power of the device lies in its semi-autonomous use that, when connected to the numerous Azure AI services like the announced Azure Spatial Anchors, extends its usefulness beyond imagination. Spatial Anchors is a cross-platform environment where, among others, holograms can be shared between users, devices and platforms.
Connected to a wide set of information sources HoloLens 2 can transform into a device that can do much more than sense and measure its environment to merely present a preprogrammed solution set for tasks. It can deduct by itself that it is looking at, for example, a door, a gear, a specific nut or bolt or maybe a type of connection cable related to another object it saw earlier. It then would be able to offer the wearer a semantically generated conclusion that can help him solve an unexpected problem and complete a task. And that may just be the hint you needed when you’re a service engineer, stuck on a difficult job far away from the home office!