Credit: Microsoft Feature Image Credit: Microsoft
I arrive at the Microsoft store in the Florida Mall exactly at 1:15 pm (Phewww! Wipes sweat from head. I was almost late for my appointment)! I tell one of the employees that I was there for the Hololens experience, she directs me to another employee who checks my ID and confirms my appointment. While waiting on the equipment to be cleaned I was briefed on the gestures that are used to control Hololens. The main gestures used to control and navigate Hololens are Air Tap, Air Tap and Hold and the Blossom. The device can also be controlled with voice commands as well (although I’m not sure as to how comprehensive this feature is). After the demo area was ready I was paired up with the employee who actually conducted the demonstrations.
Ok. So I’m terrible with names but I’m going to refer to the employee that helped me throughout the demo as Kyle. Kyle helped me put the headset on and adjust it. Surprisingly the headset ins’t as heavy as it looks and it does look and feel like a premium product. Despite its lightness the product felt very sturdy. I was given a quick overview of how things look with the device on and how spatial mapping works with it. Navigating the device was very natural. There is a small circle in the middle of the device screen that acts as a cursor. To click on something simply place the circle over the object you wish to collect and Air Tap anywhere in the field-of-view. After getting the hang of the controls Kyle showed me how you can view digital pictures on your wall with Hololens. He had the Edge browser open with a picture that he was thinking about purchasing and explained how this technology can be used to preview an item, in this case a picture, and how it would look in your home. Pretty cool.
I was then shown a pet gorilla and tiger resting on the floor before we moved on to the media player. With the media player you can Air Tap and hold it in the bottom right hand corner and drag it to resize it. Kyle told me that you can make the screen as big as you want and that you could even walk around with the house with a screen following you if you wanted. He also noted that you could have as many screens as you wanted open, but I’m sure that this would have an effect on the performance of the device just like all computer technology who’s resources are maximized. Using the media player on Hololens was a lot like using a media player on your X-Box with the Kinect, you had the additional option to use voice commands to stop/start/pause the player. Unlike the X-Box you did not have to use a special word like “X-Box” in order for the device to start listening for your command.
The next I demoed Actiongram. These are holographic characters who interact with their environment. During the demo there was a zombie standing sideways on the wall that I had to move (by Air Tapping and holding) to a record player. We had to change some of the settings in Actiongram in order to make the zombie stand upright. Accessing and changing the setting was a breeze,once we figured out which ones we needed to change. After I properly oriented the zombie and placed him on the record player Kyle started playing a record and I air tapped the zombie and he (the zombie) started walking as the record was spinning. Before the demonstration ended I selected another character in Actiongram. This time a T-Rex. With this demonstration Kyle instructed me on how to make an Actiongram character full-size; I did this by saying “full size” and watch the T-Rex grow before my eyes. Lastly I did one final Bloom to go back to the “Home Screen” and that concluded my demonstration of Hololens.
I think that this device is truly innovative! The build quality was great, and the device was comfortable to wear, the applications worked almost perfectly and you don’t have to worry about stumbling into objects or getting motion sickness. The quality of the video was really good but it’s no 4K TV by any means but still very crisp for a first generation wearable holographic device. I would compare the quality to a low end 720 HD TV. I have read complaints about the Hololens’ field-of-view and it not being large enough. I can see why this can be a concern for some, but I don’t think that it will be an issue for most users. However, if I had to name an improvement after the brief trail run I had with it, I would suggest that the field-of-view be slightly larger. When making the T-Rex full size I could only get about 80% of the it in the field-of-view. It could have been the fact that the object was placed so close to me that I couldn’t view it all. The voice commands worked really well considering all the noise in the store. If you have any experience with using voice commands on the X-Box Kinect then you will be pleased to know that voice commands are more responsive with the Hololens.
All-in-all I think that it is a very well thought out product. The demonstration was scheduled for 15 minutes but I moved through it so fast that it lasted less than 10 minutes. Given the limited number of interactions in place for the demo there wasn’t anything that I could do to test out the device in more detail. Hololens has the potential to change the way people are trained and educated (with the right price point and developer support) this device could really take off….or like so many futurist technologies (i.e. the Dreamcast and Kinect) it could fail before it leaves the ground . I hope that it catches on and on does not suffer from the same fate of its little brother the Kinect. Expect more posts on this amazing device as we follow it to see how it shape up to change the future of learning!
Credit: Business Insider
So there you have it that was my experience with Microsoft’s Hololens. Since I wasn’t technologically able to record what I was seeing or doing while using the Hololens here is a video that closely imitates the experience.
Hololens History: https://www.wired.com/2015/01/microsoft-hands-on/
Hololens Blog (Microsoft): https://blogs.windows.com/devices/category/microsoft-hololens/#pPRfzOoyETOYQfKR.97