May 1, 2016
Microsoft HoloLens: First Hands-On Use Impressions

The Microsoft HoloLens has been hailed as the future of technology. Tech Radar is very impressed with Microsoft's new augmented reality device.

"HoloLens is the most fascinating tech I've tested in a long time. We still don't know how much it will cost at retail, but HoloLens seems to have unlimited potential – that which it seems like it can actually live up to. And that alone is incredibly exciting."
However, the HoloLens is almost impossible to get your hands on, unless you are a developer who applied to get a HoloLens several months ago, which the author of this article did. Taking it out of the box feels surreal and setting it up proves frustrating. But once it's up and working, the HoloLens proves to be the most fascinating (though somewhat flawed) tech device in recent memory.

There is a guided tour on Microsoft's HoloLens that takes you through the setup. Perhaps the most difficult thing to do is getting the hand gestures just right in order to select, close, and even move items. However, once the gestures are perfected, they come as second nature -- so much so that one doesn't even have to use the clicker device that is included with the HoloLens.

Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft's HoloLens is unlike anything you've ever seen. [Photo via Daryl Deino]It's important to understand that the HoloLens is nothing like all of the other recent "headsets" that have come out recently, such as the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the Gear VR. The HoloLens is an augmented reality device, not a virtual reality device. Using it on a movie set with others during a long break proves fascinating. Suddenly, a ballerina appears dancing on a props table. Then, a young teenage street dancer appears on top of a table by the coffee machine. When looking slightly to the left, a Netflix browser appears. Then, just before going back to the set, holes form in the walls where robots and scorpions start coming through. It's all futuristic -- sometimes, too futuristic.

What stops all of this from being a perfect experience is the fact that if all these things were truly available in the real world, your vision would catch two, or even three, objects at the same time. However, this isn't the case with the HoloLens, unless two holograms are placed next to each other. The sort-of-visible square where the holograms appear takes up about 60 percent of your vision. If you are looking at a hologram that falls outside of that 60 percent, the HoloLens image clips and it doesn't feel so much like you are in the hologram world anymore.

The controversial field of view, however, doesn't kill the delightful HoloLens experience. Once you know how to work around the HoloLens' limited field of view, you sort of forget about its limits. Besides, one of the most enjoyable things to do is put a holographic movie screen on your wall and watch your favorite film, which easily fits inside the field of view. When you look away from the viewing square, the clip disappears, but you can still hear the sound and instantly put your eyes back on the film when you need to.

One can't tell how limited the field of view is when the HoloLens takes videos. However, this video, taken at Starbucks, shows just how advanced the device is.

Microsoft will likely improve the field of view on the next beta version of the HoloLens (remember, this is not a consumer version yet), but one has to give credit to Microsoft for absolutely nailing everything else: the excellent tracking of the physical environment, the high resolution graphics, the immersive stereo sound (with speakers placed right by your ears), and the comfortable fit. Microsoft certainly won't be able to charge $3,000 to consumers like they are with current developers, but a $1,000 price tag with an improved consumer version release in two years or so will absolutely guarantee the HoloLens is a hit.

[Photo via Daryl Deino]