Tuesday 22 August 2017

Adrian Weckler Tech Review: HoloLens sows seeds for future vision

HoloLens sows seeds for future vision

Microsoft Hololens
Microsoft Hololens
Fujifilm X-T20
Nintendo Switch
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Our technology editor reviews the Microsoft HoloLens.

It may not have the current availability of virtual reality products such as Oculus, PlayStation VR or HTC Vive, but in the long term, it is 'mixed' or 'augmented' reality that may become the really significant virtual sight in most people's lives. Think about it: a pair of ordinary (slim) glasses that can show you things in front of you as you stand or walk.

A video call, a browse in a virtual store, a 3D tutorial on how to do or fix something. Even the possibility of knowing someone's name by your AR glasses recognising their face from whatever online profile they choose to have public (dystopian as that sounds). Just about the only game in town is Microsoft's recently released HoloLens, which this reporter had a chance to review. The headset, which resembles a large visor with some equipment attached, is more comfortable now than when I tried its slightly less developed predecessor beta model. This comfort is largely courtesy of a headband, which stops the user having to constantly readjust it when it slips or budges.

Its operation and features are largely the same. Loading up a prog­ramme, you 'see' virtual artefacts seemingly projected a few feet in front of you, either floating in mid-air or resting on a real world surface, such as a table.

By and large, you can interact with these virtual objects using hand gestures. It's a very crude version of what might, in time, resemble the kind of interface seen in movies such as Minority Report or Iron Man. As with the last time I tried this, the device's biggest restriction is the field of view. It's a relative modest rectangular field of vision, around which there is just real life.

It means you sometimes can't see an entire object if it's very wide or tall: you have to move your head up, down, left or right to see the edge of something. That said, the system works on the basis that you're in the middle of a 360-degree mixed reality zone.

This means that in a game, there may well be something 'behind you' that you will only discover if you actually turn around to look at it dead on. The other nice thing about this 360° reality is that once a virtual object is established in front of you, you can get closer to it, look under it, over it and behind it.

Right now, Microsoft is keeping its ambitions for its recently-relaunched HoloLens headset to education and industry. But with companies such as Apple starting to hover around augmented reality devices, watch this space.

Price: €3,299

Rating: 3 Stars

Two to try

Nintendo Switch (€329)

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Nintendo Switch
 

Nintendo may be back in the game with its latest hybrid console, called Switch. It's a tablet-style gaming devices that slots into a dock at home, transferring play to your giant HD television (and upscaling the definition of the imagery to match). There are several games already announced for the system, with more on the way. The Switch launches on March 3 with pre-orders now open. Compare prices

Fujifilm X-T20 (€899)

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Fujifilm X-T20
 

Fuji continues to mount a formidable challenge to Canon, Nikon, Sony and the rest with what looks like a hell of a new camera. The new X-T20 gets the same powerful 24-megapixel sensor as its semi-pro X-Pro2 and X-T2 siblings. 4K video recording, a bright flip-out touchscreen and some amazing lenses round off the features. With a choice of sliver or black, this is a potential camera of the year. Compare prices

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