HoloLense 2, Microsoft’s latest augmented reality headset, was yesterday unveiled for the first time ahead of the World Mobile Congress hosted in Barcelona. The technology company presented its updated version of the original HoloLense as a more comfortable and immersive experience. The focus was on its potential application in a work environment as part of training and planning exercises for professionals such as surgeons, construction workers and engineers.
The big improvements represented by the second iteration of the HoloLense are the ability to track eye movements and giving wearers the impression they are able to touch and manipulate holographic images.
Unlike alternative reality headsets, which place wearers in an entirely fictitious world, augmented reality sets overlay or ‘superimpose’ digital elements onto the real world seen and experienced by those wearing them. Microsoft claim the HoloLense 2’s improvement allow the wearer to experience augmented reality in a “more human way”. The doubling of the ‘field of view’, it moving with the wearer’s eyes, higher resolution of AR images and a more comfortable head-set design all contribute to the improvement.
The targeting of the corporate market is also clear in the announcement that companies ordering the new HoloLense 2 headsets will be able to request ‘custom’ fitting to work gear such as hard hats for construction workers. The ‘Enterprise Edition’ of the headsets will retail at a starting price of £2680.
The biggest challenge companies such as Microsoft targeting the new augmented reality sector is encouraging adoption. That means first enticing software makers into building the applications that will encourage companies to invest in the technology.
CCS Insight’s Nick McQuire summed that current state of play up with:
“The jury is still firmly out on whether companies can be convinced to go all in on HoloLens, but if there is one company that can do it, it is probably Microsoft.”
Outside of a professional context, the only augmented reality experience to have gained any real traction has been the Pokémon Go game. However, it works through the camera and display of a smartphone rather than a headset, making it far more accessible by leveraging existing technology already owned by gamers.
Military application is another controversial potential use of AR headsets and one that Microsoft employees have hit out at. A leaked deal to supply HoloLense technology to the U.S. military has led to the publication of a protest letter signed by numerous employees who have worked on the tech.
One line of the letter reads:
“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used”.
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