Microsoft announced HoloLens, a holographic headset computer back in January and it’s just been one of the many features of their Build 2015 event.
The project is attracting a lot of attention and generally being well received on first impressions. Microsoft seems to be exuding high confidence in HoloLens so fingers crossed the retail delivery will live up to expectations.
With all the noise it’s generating and fresh off the back of Kinecthack London last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about HoloLens and the impact it might have on us as users day-to-day and the opportunities for developers such as ourselves. So I thought I’d get some of my thoughts out of my head and articulated in a post.
Want to make any seasoned mobile app developer feel awkward? Simply engage in conversation with them leading with “I’ve got this great idea for an app…” and watch their eyes roll as they slowly back away. It’s fair to say the traditional mobile app market has been well and truly saturated and the odds of coming up with a truly original idea are extremely low. That’s not to say there isn’t still room for great new apps, but the success nowadays is more about a slick end-to-end implementation with a good service model not just a clever app idea.
With HoloLens all bets are off. There is no existing marketplace flooded with existing ideas and we haven’t had this kind of form factor, context or preconception of how this thing can be used. So certainly for the near future, when you come up to me and say “I’ve got this great idea for a HoloLens app…” I’m all ears and can’t wait to find out what things people think of.
3D or not 3D
So far, of all the demos that have been presented, most of them aren’t really showing off much that can’t already be achieved in plain old 3D on a screen. Phrases like “this has never been possible before” are thrown about alongside an exploded diagram of some body part or mechanism. Sorry but I’m watching it on a screen already it’s just a 3D visualisation. Yes I’m not getting the full effect without wearing the glasses myself but it’s certainly not showing me anything more enlightening than a rendered object on screen not when the focus is on what is being rendered… as opposed to where and how.
Where things do get exciting is when you throw in the environment aspect. A 3D render (hologram) digitally represented in a real physical environment. Factors such as time of day, lighting, weather and all other spatial considerations are now thrown into the experience which otherwise may have only been pseudo represented at best on screen. Movement too, how this thing reacts when myself and other people/objects within the space change will enable entirely new experiences we’ve not yet even begun to understand the potential of. From design to engineering to games being able to see visualisations in the real world is a massive step in bridging the digital-physical disconnect.
Virtual Reality is big news in gaming at the moment, momentum was re-ignited by the Occulus Rift a year or so back but lately all eyes have turned to Valve’s SteamVR headset. This is an exciting field to track and HoloLens offers another category again with the inclusion of the real world. Rather than immersing yourself completely into a virtual environment it invites virtual elements into our own world. A potentially terrifying concept if you’ve ever played Alien Isolation, imagine instead of through the door of an imaginary spaceship you see the Xenomorph coming into your living room through your own door!
These thoughts are purely speculation not having tried the device yet but it’s fun to think about and we’re certainly living exciting times. Do you have an awesome HoloLens app idea? Let me know on Twitter.