Microsoft’s Hololens is the new kid on the Virtual Reality block. Announced with no rumours, hints or leaks in January, this new foray into VR looks incredible.
It works by giving the wearer a transparent dynamic heads-up-display (HUD). Which in layman’s terms means you can see-through it and it digitally overlays objects in the real-world you’re in. Those digital overlays are ‘pinned’ to surfaces and track to them as you move around. It’s essentially enabling a brand new canvas that just happens to be anything in front of you.
Because it’s this pure in conception, and doesn’t rely on being connected to a computer or a phone (It will have Windows 10 built-in) the flexibility it could offer could make a big difference to the experience of using such a VR device.
A couple of comparisons:
Google Glass Vs. Hololens
Google’s Glass aimed to be discreet. Thing is, it wasn’t discreet enough to be invisible, and wasn’t large enough to give a rich layer of information. It ‘augmented’ things essentially by feeding information up to your eye from your phone. Messages, directions, photos and video. It was ahead of it’s time and quickly obsolete due to it’s limited functionality, developer pool, cost and the fact that people who wore them were deemed ‘glassholes’ by those that typically couldn’t afford one or just didn’t like the way they looked. The potential invasion of privacy (always-on video with no red recording light) also made people wary of those wearing the devices.
Oculus Rift Vs. Hololens
The key difference here is that Hololens is about augmenting the real world. Oculus is about creating a fully immersive new one. This presents it’s own creative opportunities, but more often then not keeping the user in one spot. The Oculus based experiences i’ve tried out require close monitoring by an operator or host and are clearly fabricated. The image quality just isn’t there yet.
It’s important to note this isn’t the type of holographic projection that gave Tupaq new life, instead it’s a myriad of sensors working in harmony to display content over the real world. A real world who’s angles, shapes and forms have been detected and become the surfaces to ‘projecting’ content onto. That said, hands-on reviews are critical of the image quality here too. It will be interesting to see how it measures up against the head start that Oculus has, and in turn how Oculus (owned by Facebook) will respond.
Hololens and brand experiences
For clients and users alike, it’s not a stretch to grasp a concept of glasses that put new wheels, paint, roof rack or a chimpanzee on top of a real car they are standing in front of. Creatively the opportunities of the Oculus Rift and other immersive face-hugging displays are predominately in creating entirely new worlds and environments. This is something perhaps a little more tangible. I’m very interested to see if visitors to experiences that use it in the future are more comfortable wearing this. It’s not that I think the experiential space is immune from it, but Google proved that image perception plays a big part in whether people will wear a piece of tech or not. No doubt this is why Apple is taking such care to have it’s forthcoming watch seen as a high-fashion accessory.
The trend of coupling Oculus with other sensor technologies like Leap Motion have been leap-frogged here. Taking the best from Microsoft’s Kinect project and incorporating it into the headset mean finger and hand gestures of the wearer are detected right out of the box. The interaction potential is equally massive. Minority Report just got even closer.
In my opinion, however this isn’t the end game. We’re on a journey into VR and digital optics that’s only just beginning. Google is working on the next version of it’s ‘Glass’, and of course my mum isn’t going to buy a Hololens, but from my job at Imagination’s remit of creating world class experiences, this might find it’s way into one or two of them.
The exact hardware and fidelity of the Hololens is yet to be revealed, but word is the dev kit will be out sometime in 2015, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
Promo video from Microsoft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aThCr0PsyuA
Live demo from Microsoft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6sL_5Wgvrg