Draw & Code have been trawling the halls at MWC and 4YFN here in Barcelona. With Microsoft’s Hololens 2 reveal being the big story for immersive tech junkies, we got our hands – and heads – on the much vaunted device courtesy of sessions with Microsoft and also with PTC. Phil Charnock quizzed Draw & Code co-founder and immersive tech boffin John Keefe on how the second-gen mixed reality headset handles…
This is a second attempt at a mixed reality headset from Microsoft, we expect the form factor to improve, has it?
When I saw the leaked photo before the MWC event I thought the Hololens 2 looked cheaper than before, but in the real world it’s well made. It had to be – the Magic Leap is such a high quality piece of kit for a first attempt at a product. The weight distribution being shifted further to the back meant it stayed comfortable through both my sessions with it.
The flip-up visor we’ve seen in VR, but for MR is there a point?
As with any MR headset, it may be see-through, but the reality is that there is a reduction in light and in peripheral vision. You want the best MR experience, but you also need the best real world vision, so why not? And the allowance for glasses is a massive bonus.
I never wanted to go back from Magic Leap’s expanding headband, it seemed an ideal design solution. How is the jog wheel tightening mechanism on the Hololens 2?
I agree, the simplicity of the headband on the ML1 is a joy to use. But the wheel mechanism works and feels secure, so it does what it needs to do.
Does it still feel like Windows in there?
I don’t know, I was just straight into the experience so I couldn’t really glimpse the OS.
OK, so you are in the experiences – what stood out?
Eye-tracking calibration is actually a lot of fun and really shows what the device can do. A hummingbird buzzes around your hand as you move it upon completion. The intimate experience doesn’t feel like the cold, enterprise machine that the Hololens is purported to be – this feels like a leaf out of the Magic Leap playbook where wonder and fantasy are to the fore. It creatively demonstrates the improved optics, eye tracking and vastly improved gesture control.
You tried a few demos across a couple of sessions, what else impressed you?
Pearson’s medical training application has a volumetrically captured patient and a virtual assistant that helped you diagnose the patient’s issue. D&C have worked with volumetric capture in the original Hololens and with the field of view (FOV) it required us to position the actors well out of arm’s reach of the viewer. With Hololens 2 the action can unfold a lot closer.
Speaking of FOV – did you feel the purported difference?
While the Hololens 2’s FOV clocks double the area of the original, when compared to the Magic Leap One for all intents and purposes they felt very similar. Excuse the pun, but it’s not worth focusing on. Look at the feathered edges on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Magic Leap experience or Draw & Code’s own positioning of volumetrically captured performance in the original Hololens – smart creators will work with it.
You also checked out the Hololens 2 with PTC, custodians of the Vuforia AR platform.
Where there is AR you can expect them to be around! We have used Vuforia for all manner of projects for the best part of a decade so it’s great to see PTC also showcasing the Hololens 2 on their stand. I was shown an industrial application that guides you in repairing technical components. The natural gesture control was showcased to the full here; it was easy to pick up objects. This was also where I noticed the Hololens 2’s dynamic focal depth in action – it was noticeable how moving your gaze really worked to help build a very natural feel to the 3D view.
This is generally very positive, any criticisms?
There is a strong reflection in the lower portion of the visor that is quite distracting. Apart from that, it was a very able piece of kit.
Are there features found in the Hololens 2 experiences you tried that feel like must-haves for all future MR devices?
There was the option of virtual buttons and voice commands in one experience; both are interesting ways to interact with the mixed reality world that may very well come to be the default for this medium. And the eye tracking being used to enable natural reading was superb.
The Hololens 2 is touted as enterprise all the way, so was Hololens 1 – is there fun to be had here?
Look at the stage demos – there were pianos and unless you are in the piano business, that was pure creativity. I expect Draw & Code will be finding plenty of arty and esoteric uses of the Hololens 2 over the coming years!