Microsoft HoloLens

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Microsoft HoloLens
MicrosoftHoloLens 3.png
Category Smartglasses
Developer Microsoft Corporation
Announced January 2015 [1]
Released Developers: 2016 [2]
Consumers:
Price 3000 USD [3][2]
Operating system Windows Mixed Reality
Display 2.3 megapixel widescreen stereoscopic head-mounted display
Resolution 1268x720 pixels
Field of view 120
120 °
degrees both horizontal and vertical
Weight 579 g
Controls

gestural, voice, gaze, inertial

Data available good
Risk factor low
Standalone
http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

Microsoft HoloLens is the first device built for the Microsoft Holographic platform for augmented reality running on the Windows 10 operating system. The Holographic platform is planned to work together with desktop-running Windows 10 and other Microsoft products, such as XBOX or smartphones, through common API.[4]

HoloLens is a self-contained computer that does not need additional connection to other devices. It offers augmented reality in the form of so called “holograms”[4], which are virtual elements embedded into what the user sees through the HoloLens. These holograms are pinned or anchored to real, physical elements in the environment. It also features binaural stereo speakers for providing positional audio. The control is achieved through a built-in sensor array that serves as a natural user interface that can be interacted with with gaze, voice and especially hand gestures.[5]

The display projection does not occupy the entire user’s view but only a small portion, similar to the functioning of other devices of the same category. Nate Ralph, associated editor of CNET, describes the created image as “a holographic field that feels like looking at a 20-inch screen from a few feet away.”[6] Microsoft stated that the image is equal to "looking at a 15-inch monitor that's around two feet from your view"[7] currently (as of January 2016).

HoloLens is strapped to the user’s head and can be further adjusted to better accommodate to the user’s needs. The controls are located above the ears at the top of the device’s frame.[8]

At the moment, the v3 version of the HoloLens is under development, sidelining what was going to be version two of the device. It is speculated that by skipping what was version two on Microsoft's roadmap, the company can accelerate the third version which will be closer to a generational leap and help keep Microsoft ahead of the competition. However, it is likely that the v3 version of the Hololens will arrive no sooner than in 2019.[9]

Closer look at the inner workings of HoloLens
Closer look at the inner workings of HoloLens.

Main Characteristics

HoloLens features depth camera with a 120x120 degrees FOV, microphone array, stereo speakers capable of binaural audio, an accelerometer, gyroscope and a magnetometer. It also features so called Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) which is Microsoft’s custom build coprocessor that processes and combines data from all sensors. [8][10][11][12][13] At the Hot Chips 2016 conference, Microsoft revealed the specifications of the HPU. The processor is "a custom-designed TSMC-fabricated 28nm coprocessor that has 24 Tensilica DSP cores. It has about 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SRAM, and a layer of 1GB of low-power DDR3 RAM on top, all in a 12mm-by-12mm BGA package".[14]The device will be released to the developers participating in the Windows Insider program in the US and Canada in the beginning of the year 2016. The price of the developer version is set to 3000 USD.[15]

It is speculated that the main sensor is an advanced version of the Kinect 2.0 camera and that HoloLens might contain several Intel technologies, mainly its Intel Atom Cherry Trail chipset with Intel RealSense gesture control system. The headset is also equipped with four HD and depth cameras as well as an infra-red sensor.[16]

At an event in Tel Aviv, Microsoft's Technical Evangelist Bruce Harris informed that the device will have a battery life spanning from 2.5 to 5.5 hours on average.[17][18]

Regarding the performance of the device, Microsoft's documentation reports that even though the HoloLens' optics include a pair of HD 16:9 light engines, its default and maximum supported resolution is 720p or 1268x720 per eye, while the lowest supported resolution is just 360p (634x360). Moreover, Microsoft insists that developers maintain a minimum of only 60 frames per second when coding the HoloLens applications, while when capturing video, the frame rate drops even lower, to 30 frames per second. Compared with similar devices such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which both offer a total resolution of 1080x1200 per eye and a 90Hz refresh rate, the HoloLens thus perform significantly worse in this department, at least on paper. Microsoft partner András Velvárt points out, on the contrary, that the HoloLens is actually pushing 240 frames per second, allocating 60 FPS each to a red, green, blue, and a second green layer. The documentation also acknowledges the device's comparatively lower performance, while making clear that the decision was to prioritize a steady 60 frames per second to eliminate visual judder and make holograms feel stable, thus making the user's experience as comfortable as possible.[19][20]

Microsoft emphasizes, however, that regarding the HoloLens it is not its resolution that is important, but its "holographic density", i.e. how bright and beautiful the hologram is. As explained on the developer page, "the key to a great holographic experience is holograms that are light point rich, i.e. have a high holographic density, and are pinned or anchored to the world around you".[21] The "holographic resolution" of the HoloLens is 2.3 million "light points", with a "holographic density" of 2,500 radiants, or "light points per radian". It is worth noting in this regard that the 2.3 million "light points" Microsoft is apparently calculating are more than the available pixels that the HoloLens actually renders, or about 913,000 pixels. Moreover, HoloLens needs only to draw holograms which takes up only a small portion of the screen, while a PC's 3D card needs to draw everything on the screen. This might give the HoloLens a possible edge over similar devices such as HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, which need to draw every pixel, while the HoloLens many be able to reserve its processing power for where it is needed most.[22]

It is worth noting that the HoloLens (at least in its developer version) also allow a remote control via Microsoft's Device Portal application, tailored specifically for the purposes of the device. Within the application it is possible to connect the HoloLens to a network, watch its performance (and temperature) fluctuate in real time, command it to re-scan a room, view what the HoloLens sees, and even send it text, which will float in the air as a hologram, via the keyboard.[23]

Purpose

Microsoft’s official promotion text:

We envisioned a world where technology could become more personal—where it could adapt to the natural ways we communicate, learn, and create. Where our digital lives would seamlessly connect with real life. The result is the world’s most advanced holographic computing platform, enabled by Windows 10. For the first time ever, Microsoft HoloLens brings high-definition holograms to life in your world, where they integrate with your physical places, spaces, and things. Holograms will improve the way you do things every day, and enable you to do things you’ve never done before.[4]
Microsoft HoloLens from below
Microsoft HoloLens from below.

In short, the HoloLens has a very wide range of possible uses. One example is Microsoft's and Volvo's demostration of a "mixed reality" car showroom,[24][25] another documented possible use for the HoloLens is as a tool for a collaborative 3D modelling[26] or the design of various homes solutions.[27] The HoloLens will find its purpose generally anywhere where its holographic augmented reality can be utilized.

Due to its being an "augmented reality" device, the range of its uses is also potentially broader than in the case of "virtual reality" devices such as HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. It would be wrong, however, to perceive HoloLens as "better" (or "worse") than the VR devices in this regard. It should be approached rather as a wholly different kind of device, which will supposedly "require a new vocabulary, and we're just beginning to learn the language".[28]

Naturally, its potential use can be found in the gaming industry as well, even though the game developers will have to operate under a number of constraints, because as a standalone device the HoloLens has a very limited storage and memory: the hard limit to the allocated size of HoloLens applications and games is only 900 megabytes.[29] However, there are already several games available for the HoloLens and more are likely to appear in the future, including the much popular Minecraft.[30]

Company & People

  • Alex Kipman - Project HoloLens, Chief Inventor[31]
  • Kudo Tsunoda - General manager at XBOX[32]

Important Dates

  • In development since 2010.[33]
  • Announced at Microsoft Windows 10 keynote in January 2015.[34]
  • Will be available to developers in the beginning of 2016.[35]

Ethical Issues & Health Risks

There has been no issues noted with Microsoft HoloLens so far specifically. However, some general issues connected to Smartglasses in general still apply.

Enhancement/Therapy/Treatment

Enhancement - HoloLens is meant to be used for entertainment and industrial use (3D modelling, collaboration in real-time).[36][37][38][39]

At this stage of the development, the device does not offer any treatment capabilities, although there might be some application running on the device that could offer such features.

Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore tries HoloLens during the Microsoft event.
Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore tries HoloLens during the Microsoft event.

HoloLens could be used in neurosurgery. They are already tested for this purpose at the Duke University. The researchers hope that it makes certain operations less risky.[40]

Case Western University in Ohio intends to use HoloLens in the learning anatomy of their medics. They suppose to replace cadavers by HoloLens' 3D images. [41]

Public & Media Impact and Presentation

Overall, HoloLens seems to be very well received by the media. Microsoft’s embargo on any detailed technical information leaves a lot for speculation, though. Media outlets wonder mainly about the resolution of the device’s display, as Microsoft never stated an exact resolution, for example.[42] However, the overall enthusiasm for the device is not shared uniformly.[43] According to The Register, HoloLens suffers the same drawbacks as many other similar devices. The projection area is very small and the user has to look directly at the holograms to actually see them.[44] Microsoft stated that while the hardware of the device will indeed improve before the final release, the field of view will change only marginally. In an interview for Verge, the General manager of XBOX Kudo Tsunoda said, that the device will not be capable of full peripheral field of view.[45]

Another common opinion found in the tech media is that with this device Microsoft hopes to renew its popularity as a tech visionary, finally offering new and ‘exciting’ technology.[31] The company will be taking HoloLens on a tour through the United States and Canada to showcase the technology to developers.[46]

Public Policy

There is no legislation concerning the device at the moment. However, some policies regarding Smartglasses may apply.

Related Technologies, Projects, or Scientific Research

  • HTC Vive[47]
  • Microsoft Kinect
  • Oculus Rift
  • Octosense[48]
  • Smartglasses
  • WEMO Operator System[49]
  • Windows 10

https://www.wareable.com/microsoft/microsoft-hololens-2-release-date-price-specs-495

References

  1. SAVOV, Vlad. Microsoft announces Windows Holographic with HoloLens headset. The Verge [online]. 2015, Jan 21. Available online at: http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/21/7867593/microsoft-announces-windows-holographic (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  2. 2.0 2.1 BRIGHT, Peter. Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition: Coming Q1 2016 for $3,000. Ars Technica [online]. 2015, Jun 10. Available online at: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/10/microsoft-hololens-development-edition-coming-q1-2016-for-3000/ (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  3. https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us/development-edition
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Microsoft HoloLens. Microsoft Corp. [online] Available online at: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
  5. FITZSIMMONS, Michelle. Hands on: Microsoft HoloLens review. TechRadar [online]. 2015, Jun 19. Available online at: http://www.techradar.com/reviews/wearables/microsoft-hololens-1281834/review (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
  6. RALPH, Nate. Building holograms with Microsoft HoloLens (hands-on). CNET [online]. 2015, Apr 30. Available online at: http://www.cnet.com/products/microsoft-hololens/ (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
  7. WARREN, Tom. Microsoft’s HoloLens battery lasts up to 5.5 hours. The Verge [online]. 2016, Jan 16. Available online at: https://www.theverge.com/2016/1/16/10778864/microsoft-hololens-battery-life-features (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Microsoft HoloLens Hardware. Microsoft Corp. [online]. Available online at: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us/hardware (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
  9. SAMS, Brad. Microsoft Accelerates HoloLens V3 Development, Sidesteps V2. Thurrot [online]. 2017, Feb 19. Available online at: https://www.thurrott.com/hardware/90780/microsoft-accelerates-hololens-v3-development-sidesteps-v2 (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  10. SHAH, Agam. Microsoft's HoloLens uses unreleased Intel Atom chip. PC World [online]. 2015, Jan 22. Available online at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2874352/microsofts-hololens-uses-unreleased-intel-atom-chip.html (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
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  20. https://twitter.com/vbandi
  21. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens/hardware (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
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  25. BELL, Duncan. Microsoft HoloLens and Volvo will roll out a virtual car showroom next year; we've seen it and it's great… Techradar [online]. 2015, Nov 20. Available online at: http://www.techradar.com/news/wearables/microsoft-hololens-and-volvo-will-roll-out-a-virtual-car-showroom-next-year-we-ve-seen-it-and-it-s-great--1309338 (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
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  37. BELL, Duncan. Microsoft HoloLens and Volvo will roll out a virtual car showroom next year; we've seen it and it's great… Techradar [online]. 2015, Nov 20. Available online at: http://www.techradar.com/news/wearables/microsoft-hololens-and-volvo-will-roll-out-a-virtual-car-showroom-next-year-we-ve-seen-it-and-it-s-great--1309338 (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  38. HACHMAN, Mark. We found 7 critical HoloLens details that Microsoft hid inside its developer docs. PCWorld [online]. 2016, Mar 2. Available online at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/3039822/consumer-electronics/we-found-7-critical-hololens-details-that-microsoft-hid-inside-its-developer-docs.html (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  39. Microsoft HoloLens: Partner Spotlight with thyssenkrupp. YouTube [online]. 2017, Apr 20. Available online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgtHnCJJUMU&feature=share (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
  40. MANKE, Kara. Brain Surgery May Get A Bit Easier, With Augmented Reality. Duke Today [online]. 2016, Oct 5. Available online at: https://www.today.duke.edu/2016/10/brain-surgery-may-get-bit-easier-augmented-reality (Retrieved Dec 5, 2016).
  41. Case Western Reserve University. CWRU takes the stage at Microsoft’s Build conference to show how HoloLens can transform learning. Case Western Reserve University [online]. 2015. Available online at: http://case.edu/hololens/ (Retrieved Dec 15, 2016).
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  43. McCRACKEN, Harry. Microsoft HoloLens And The Danger Of Mismanaged Expectations. Fast Company [online]. 2015, May 1. Available online at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3045820/microsoft-hololens-and-the-danger-of-mismanaged-expectations (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
  44. McALLISTER, Neil. Microsoft HoloLens or Hollow Lens? El Reg stares down cyber-specs' code. The Register [online]. 2015, May 1. Available online at: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/05/01/microsoft_hololens_feature/ (Retrieved Jul 28, 2015)
  45. WARREN, Tom. Microsoft: don’t expect HoloLens' field of view to get much better. The Verge [online]. 2015, Jun 18. Available online at: http://www.theverge.com/2015/6/18/8809323/microsoft-hololens-field-of-view-kudo-tsunoda (Retrieved Jun 12, 2017)
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