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Hands-on with Microsoft's new HoloLens 2 – TechCrunch

Earlier this week, Microsoft used its press conference at MWC to announce the next version of HoloLen's mixed reality viewer. When it demoed the first version back in 2015, quite a few assumed that the company had somehow dropped the demos because this kind of real-time tracking and recognition combined with a relatively high travel view and packaged as a stand-alone unit, was never done before.

The fact that Microsoft took its sweet time to release this next version clearly shows that it wanted to collect feedback from its first set of users and developers who wrote apps for it. Microsoft was not under much pressure to release an update, given that it never had a real competitor, with perhaps the exception of Magic Leap, which is still in very early days.

If version 1

came as a big surprise, since version 2, which I have now had time to try at MWC, is in many ways the natural evolution of the original promise: it is more comfortable to wear, the field of view is Big enough to feel more natural and interaction model has been tweaked to make the use of HoloLens apps faster and easier. The hardware has obviously been addressed to modern specifications.

The first thing you will notice when trying the new version is that the first calibration process that measures the distance between your eyes is now automatic. You mainly play a small game where you track a light in front of you, and the new gaze recognition system takes care of setting up the calibration. Once done, a hummingbird appears and lands on hand. It's also when you realize how much bigger the field of view has become. The bird is big enough that I'm pretty sure it wouldn't fit into the relatively small box that limits the HoloLens 1's field of view.

Don't get me wrong, the experience is still not quite what Microsoft's videos would have you believe. You are still very aware of the fact that there is an abrupt end to where the AR images appear and where they end – but it is far less damaging now that you have this larger box. As far as resolution goes, the specifications are pretty much the same, and there is no practical difference that I mentioned.

The other thing you want to notice right away is that Microsoft was not "I'm kidding when it said that the new HoloLens would be far more comfortable to wear. The original movie clamped to your head ( and for me it tended to slowly slide down my face, and you never quite forgot how heavy it was.The new one rests comfortably on the forehead, and while still squeezing it in your face by tightening a knob on the back, It is far more natural to wear, the actual device is only a few grams lighter than the first edition, but with what I assume is another weight distribution, it just feels lighter, and if you wear glasses, it is not No pressure on them anymore, nor because none of the weight is resting on your nose.

Another big difference: HoloLens 2 is now a true visor that you can fold open, so while you can of course look through the lenses, you can now also easily move the HoloLens away from your face. [19659002] When you go through the process of trying out the new HoloLens, you will sooner or later come across menus, buttons and sliders. In the first version, hand and gesture tracking was not entirely there to let you communicate with them naturally. You have to use special movements for it. Now just click on them as if you were using a smartphone. And when there is a slider, take it and move it. The new demo applications that Microsoft showed at MWC are beneficial to all of them.

And there's another difference: This time it is clear Microsoft says HoloLens 2 is for business users, and all demos focus on them. Gone are the days of shooting aliens when they break through walls or play virtual Minecraft on a living room table. In fact, as Lorraine Bardeen, General Manager of Engineering, told D365 Mixed Reality Apps at Microsoft, the company encouraged much experimentation when it launched the first version. By now, these usage conditions have become apparent.

When we first started with HoloLens, both internally and in the first wave when we talked about this being a completely open technology, she said. "It's like you've been asking 30 years ago, what can you do with a personal computer. We started by creating a variety of selection programs." These programs showed what you could do in games, communications, commercial applications, etc. [19659011] "We started by saying that this can be and do everything," she added. But when HoloLens 1 came into the hands of the users, a couple of clusters came out, and those are the ones Microsoft wants to focus on for the best solution. But it's also worth noting that Microsoft is committed to keeping HoloLens an open ecosystem. So if game developers want to make games – or their own gaming stores – there's nothing to hold them back.

Although it's now a far better device, at $ 3,500, it's not a consumer device, and I don't expect we'll see any AAA games being sent to HoloLens 2 anytime soon.

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