HoloLens – the Ultimate AR Glasses?

Everyone’s talking about the HoloLens right now. So, naturally, I want to add my two cents as well. Over the past few days, I had the opportunity to try out the HoloLens twice. Now, I’d like to share my first impressions with you.

codefluegel-hololens

Since revolutions which are boldly announced seldom take place, I approached the topic rather sceptically. Especially, since all AR glasses existing on the market have not managed to keep the fantastical promises made in marketing presentations and videos – not by a long shot.

I’m not going to list a bunch of technical details here, you can find them on the internet easily. I will share with you the very subjective thoughts and impressions I had when testing the HoloLens. Basically, I will be comparing the HoloLens with other AR glasses on the market and which I have also tested: the GoogleGlass, the Epson Moverio BT-200 and the Vuzix M100.

… and, of course, I will be answering the big question our team of developers has posed: is CodeFlügel going to buy one of them?

Well, let’s put it on, then.

The HoloLens has a padded, adjustable headband which can be fitted to the size of your head pretty easily and offers a good fit. Another important advantage which I especially approve of: I can comfortably wear it over my regular glasses. Up to now, that has always been a bit of a problem for me, because I’ve always had to wear my contacts to see anything at all.

… okay … the HoloLens is on … the headband is adjusted … it fits … I can see … let the fun begin …

My first impressions

The display is smaller than I expected, about the same size as that of the Epson. The quality is miles better, though. Especially, because the areas where nothing is displayed are really transparent. Therefore, the edges of the display are barely noticeable.

Also the displayed objects are very slightly transparent, which amplifies the holographic effect. (I would imagine that had a little bit of influence on the HoloLens’ name.) Thus, the virtual object blends into its real surroundings very well. Also the display’s optics are pretty good too, even though the display could really be larger.

You can interact with the scene by performing ‘click gestures’ in front of the HoloLens. However, they are only detected centrally in front of the glasses and not towards the edges. But when it works, it works incredibly well. And once you get used to these controls (which takes you about ten seconds), you can interact with the scene very efficiently.

Another positive point concerns the stability of the AR content. The objects are locked in their real-world position, without a jitter or a flicker. The HoloLens constantly reconstructs its real environment and can thus achieve this amazing stability of the virtual scene – bloody impressive.

Can you wear it comfortably?

The weight of the HoloLens was not a problem at all. I think it can easily be worn for longer periods of time, without any neck strain. Also the batteries are an improvement when compared to other AR glasses. According to my well-informed sources, the batteries last for over four hours, which is obviously way better than the GoogleGlass’ 20 minutes of AR fun.

The headband also prevents any direct contact between the processing unit of the HoloLens and your skin, so you won’t get one very hot ear, as you did wearing the GoogleGlass for CPU-intensive processes, such as AR applications.

My Conclusion

Really, comparing the HoloLens to the GoogleGlass and the Vuzix is not entirely fair. I would call those two semi-AR glasses, since their displays are only visible to one eye. Due to its improved construction, the HoloLens plays in an entirely different league.

The comparison to the Epson Moverio is fraught due to the time span of about two years between their respective releases (technology years are a lot like dog years in that respect). But still: the HoloLens has the better display by far. It is controlled via gestures, so you can scratch the touchpad and the annoying cable connecting it to the glasses. It isn’t as ‘top heavy’ as the Epson, or rather, the headband makes you notice that less. And the stability in positioning the scene is the best I’ve ever seen.

So how much marketing is in those marketing videos?

Now, as with any AR glasses on the market, there are some amazing and impressive videos showing the HoloLens ‘in use’. The rule of thumb here, is this: marketing is marketing and reality is reality. Anyone of you who has had the chance to wear AR glasses and to compare them to what we’ve seen in marketing videos knows what I mean. Everyone else, consider this: When you have an energy drink, you won’t sprout wings. A granny cannot trigger an airbag with her walking stick and huge walk-in fridges full of beer is something very few of us can boast. In short: marketing and reality aren’t really the best of friends.

However, I do think that the HoloLens has great potential. When compared to other AR glasses, it has some definite advantages, which can only become greater as the HoloLens evolves.

Which is why I think we’ll simply have to buy one. As soon as we have it, I’m sure here’s the first place you’ll know about it. 😉