HoloLens 2: Microsoft’s Second Mixed Reality Headset Explained
Wider field of view, better controls and a more comfortable design
Microsoft HoloLens 2 is the second version of the Augmented Reality (AR) headgear. Like the original version, HoloLens 2 uses a transparent visor to overlay computer-generated images, which Microsoft calls “holograms,” over the user’s view of the real world. It has all of the same potential applications in gaming, productivity, and industry as the original. HoloLens 2, however, does include a few significant upgrades.
How is the HoloLens 2 different from the original HoloLens?
HoloLens 2 and the original HoloLens are a lot similar, but HoloLens 2 includes a lot of improvements and tweaks that make it easier to use and useful in more situations.
Here are the most important differences:
- Field of view: HoloLens 2 has a much larger field of view than its predecessor. It helps project holograms into the periphery of your vision, and the holograms don’t go away when you turn your head a little in one direction or the other.
- Ease of control: The original HoloLens were controlled primarily by gestures. HoloLens 2 lets you interact with holograms in a much more satisfying and realistic way. You can grab items, resize and scale items, press virtual buttons, and more.
- Comfort and stabilization: HoloLens 2 has been redesigned to make the headset more comfortable to wear, especially when moving around, looking up and down, and other situations where the original might have changed or become uncomfortable.
- Removable seal: The HoloLens 2 is more hygienic for multiple people to use, as it includes a removable forehead seal. When one person is done using the device, they can pop their joint before, and the next person can install their own.
The HoloLens system combines a portable Windows 10 computer with a transparent visor, speakers and other components. The visor is the key to this technology, because it is in fact a transparent screen. Think of the visor like a computer monitor, right in front of your eyes, which you can see through.
When three-dimensional objects are displayed on the visor, HoloLens changes them so that the object seen by the left eye is slightly different from the object seen by the right eye. This creates the illusion that the object is really there, or that the object is a hologram.
HoloLens 2 uses a series of built-in cameras to track the movement of the user’s head, so the holograms stay in place as you turn your head or move your body. It also uses a series of infrared cameras to track your eye movement.
HoloLens 2 allows the user to interact with these objects by following the position of the user’s hands. For example, pressing a holographic button can cause an instruction set to close, a video to play, or a program to run. This is an improvement over the original HoloLens, which relied on preset gestures, a physical clicker, and traditional mouse and keyboard input.
Microsoft refers to HoloLens as mixed reality because it combines computer-generated imagery with a normal view of the real world. In other applications, similar technologies are generally referred to as augmented reality (AR).
A common example of AR is mobile gaming Pokemon Go. When you use the feature of this game which superimposes the image of a Pokemon on the live video of the phone’s camera, it is augmented reality.
While HoloLens 2 is a wearable headset like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it is not actually a virtual reality system. Even though this technology has gaming, and consumer applications, it is still primarily intended for industrial use.
Microsoft uses the term “mixed reality” to refer to both HoloLens and its virtual reality systems. The first generation of Windows mixed reality headsets work like the Rift and Vive, without actual mixed reality or augmented reality components, and not like HoloLens.
Microsoft HoloLens 2 specifications
- Maker: Microsoft
- Resolution: 2K
- Field of view: 52 degrees diagonal, 43 degrees horizontal, 29 degrees vertical
- Weight: 566 grams
- Platform: Windows 10
- Camera: 8 MP stills, 1080p 30FPS video
- Entry method: Hand tracking, eye tracking, voice control
- Release date: End of 2019
- Price: € 3,500 (purchase), € 99 – € 125 / month (supported by one or more users)