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HoloLens Review: Step into the Star Wars Universe

HoloLens review by Concept Systems

The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrementsL

While Microsoft’s new HoloLens won’t replace the universe’s most loveable robot, R2D2, any time soon, it can give you a taste of what it might be like to live in a Star Wars universe.

Concept Systems’ Doug Taylor recently tested out the HoloLens, and here’s what he has to say about it: 

 The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrements.  Basically, it is a 3D computer interface.  And it works.  It works really, really well.

 The device comes in a hard blob like case that has a device, a wall charger & cable, and a clicker.  The device fits many different styles of heads from my massive (but yet tasteful) pumpkin shaped head to my wife’s petite and attractive apple sized head.  Above the ears are a pair of speakers that aren’t too loud, but are pretty close to great.  The device has all sorts of lenses and whatnot and what looks like four Kinect style 3D mappers pointed in various directions. 

 First, let’s talk about localization, or basically how well does it know where it is.  Short answer: perfectly.  When you put a screen on the wall, it stays there regardless of how you move in the room and when you get closer to it, the screen gets larger and totally appears to be stuck to the wall.  If you place screens sticking out of things, they stay there.  You can place screens or what have you anywhere.  I fired up Microsoft Edge, logged into Netflix and started watching a movie.  I walked around the room and could hear the movie, but could only see it if I look where the movie was playing.  The localization engine on this device is as close to flawless as I could imagine.  No, I do not know how it does it, but I guess that it is just like a Kinect but with a 6 axis accelerometer.

 Next, lets talk specs on this bad boy:

Device Specifications

Optics

·         See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)

·         2 HD 16:9 light engines

·         Automatic pupillary distance calibration

·         Holographic Resolution: 2.3M total light points

·         Holographic Density: >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

Sensors

·         1 IMU

·         4 environment understanding cameras

·         1 depth camera

·         1 2MP photo / HD video camera

·         Mixed reality capture

·         4 microphones

·         1 ambient light sensor

Human Understanding

·         Spatial sound

·         Gaze tracking

·         Gesture input

·         Voice support

Input / Output / Connectivity

·         Built-in speakers

·         Audio 3.5mm jack

·         Volume up/down

·         Brightness up/down

·         Power button

·         Battery status LEDs

·         Wi-Fi 802.11ac

·         Micro USB 2.0

·         Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Power

·         Battery Life

·         2-3 hours of active use

·         Up to 2 weeks of standby time

·         Fully functional when charging

·         Passively cooled (no fans)

Processors

·         Intel 32 bit architecture with TPM 2.0 support

·         Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)

Weight

·         579g

Memory

·         64GB Flash

·         2GB RAM

What’s in the box

·         HoloLens Development Edition

·         Clicker

·         Carrying case

·         Charger and cable

·         Microfiber cloth

·         Nose pads

·         Overhead strap

OS and Apps

·         Windows 10

·         Windows Store

What you need to develop

·         Windows 10 PC able to run Visual Studio 2015 and Unity

 

 Now for the downside.  The format of the image is 16×9 and the resolution of the device is something like 1080×607.  Also, the device draws the colors iteratively (one color after another) rather than like a TV does.  When you move your head quickly, the red image, the green image and the blue images are drawn at slightly different locations since they are drawn at different times.  When you hold still, it does a good job, but if you are moving around quickly, it offsets things a little.  Normally this is not a problem.  Since “moving” requires neck motion, moving quickly is not something you usually do.

 

The lower resolution is partly because the HoloLens does not have a single resolution, but has two, one for each eye, and when you think about a wearable device with 1080×607 times two, it is pretty impressive.  Think of it at 1080×1200 effective resolution, split between eyes.  The “actual” resolution (since it is a mobile device) is limitless, but the field of view is limited to the frame.

 

In reality though the HoloLens requires you to mouse using your whole head and hold your hand out in front of you to interact (so it can be seen by the cameras).  All this to say is that you would have to be pretty hardcore to use this instead of a TV when watching a movie.  Also, the device is not exactly heavy, but after 15 minutes of it sitting on your nose, you notice it for sure.

 

Enough with the downsides.  This thing is absolutely the coolest device I have ever seen, or even heard of.  It is many times better than I expected.  I giggled like a schoolgirl being asked on her first date as I gleefully played with it.  It is not just awesome, it is a ALL TIME MUST HAVE category device for any geeks who love cool, which means that when these things go on sale, we are all going to be out some serious coin because once you take a drink of the elixir, you will be transported down the rabbit hole and the world will never look the same again.