Mobile World Congress begins in Barcelona this weekend with the biggest news of the show set to be the launch of the HoloLens version 2. Here's what we are hoping for from the launch.
At Sunday 24th February at 5pm CET we should get to know more about the second generation HoloLens. Frankly, it is news we have been looking forward for quite some time. Not just for ourselves as developers or our clients but for the Mixed Reality industry in general as it has been set to accelerate for quite some time now
We have been working with the original HoloLens for over two years and have amassed a wealth of knowledge and expertise about Mixed Reality. It is clear though that there have been limitations with the original HoloLens that can clearly be improved upon for version 2.
Field of View
By far the most common initial response of many first-time HoloLens users has been the limited field of view of the device. Rumours have persisted for some time, notably because of a patent application by Microsoft, that this FoV issue is to be resolved, or at least vastly improved upon in the HoloLens version 2. This will have a great impact on the consumer reaction to HoloLens.
Unfortunately, due to popular media, films etc. the idea of a 'reality headset' or glasses has been someone misrepresented. That is to say that science fiction has, for some time, been in advance of science fact. In some cases, even the marketing material for HoloLens applications (and we are happy to say that we have not been guilty of this) this contract between what is possible and what is imagined has been skewed.
The advanced Field of View capabilities of the version 2 HoloLens will go some way to resolve this and mean that applications can be used, and designed to their full and users can increase their overall experience of the HoloLens.
Time in Use
We will split this into two components - physical and battery.
Physical - first of all, it must be stated that the HoloLens is, and always was, a developer device. This, even in the eyes of those who use it and manufacture it, was never meant to be the 'end' device and rather was a piece of test hardware that should never be viewed as the finished article. Now, the technical and hardware achievements of the HoloLens are to be admired and, frankly, it is also a beautiful (yet fragile) piece of equipment. But it is also large, heavy and somewhat clunky. Anyone who has ever needed to use their HoloLens in a public forum such as a coffee shop can attest to the sideways glances received or developers with red marks on their noses from hours of use can attest to it not being the easiest device in the world to wear long-term.
Being fair to the Hololens, it was never meant to and it is perfectly comfortable when worn in short bursts. The updated HoloLens - and this is pure speculation - should be smaller, lighter and more ergonomic than the original.
Battery - The battery life of the HoloLens leaves a lot to be desired - especially when being used constantly such as during development sessions or during trade shows. A full charge of a couple of hours or so cannot really be considered to be that of a solid work tool so here's hoping for massive improvements in that department in the second generation HoloLens.
A place in the sun -
Want to use your HoloLens outside, or in sunny conditions? Think again. Now, being honest, you don't really use your laptop in a field. But the fact is that you could. This is not so true of the HoloLens where in-field work really is a must in order to grow the industry. We already know that Microsoft has trialled an ND filter with a HoloLens application so it will be interesting to see how and if something like this is incorporated into the second generation version.
The performance of the HoloLens is pretty decent but, like with any hardware upgrade, especially one so long in the making, you would hope that the performance capabilities of HoloLens 2 will improve speed, usability, development and even the scope of applications.
Even larger enterprise customers have been put off by the cost of the HoloLens. Some three years on and the device still carries the hefty price tag of $3,000 with the Commercial Suite coming in at $5,000. These numbers have not prevented companies from trying and testing the device or even scaling it out across some specific departments but company-wide roll outs just don't tend to happen at those price points. And, for smaller organisations it has been the largest barrier to entry.
A lower entry point would go some way to ensuring that businesses could justify scaling their HoloLens usage which would allow the already existing progress of Mixed Reality to really take a foothold.
All in all, Sunday should be a promising announcement and it is one which is probably overdue. We will wait in anticipation for the big day before giving our verdict on the new device itself.