Business Technology

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Microsoft’s augmented reality Hololens is strictly business

Executive tech: Microsoft Hololens (€3,299)

Microsoft's new Hololens, tested by Adrian Weckler, has a 'crude' version of the kind of interface seen in films like 'Ironman'
Microsoft's new Hololens, tested by Adrian Weckler, has a 'crude' version of the kind of interface seen in films like 'Ironman'
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

While mass market virtual reality systems so far have largely been about consumer applications such as gaming, augmented (or ‘mixed’) reality systems are being pitched more as industry-specific technology.

A case in point is Microsoft’s Hololens. Having just launched in Ireland, I got the chance to try the latest iteration of the headset.

The difference between ‘virtual’ and ‘augmented’ reality is that, while VR encloses you completely within its artificial world, in AR you can still see your actual environment with virtual artefacts overlaid onto it. So I can conjure up a digital object and see it placed on the floor in front of me, on a table, or floating. To a limited extent, I can also control that object using finger gestures in front of my headset.

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’.

For consumer applications, the Hololens remains seriously limited because of its highly restricted field of view.

This consists of a modest rectangular field of vision, around which there are no digital artefacts to be seen. This 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, once a virtual object is established in front of you, you can get closer to it, look under it, over it and behind it. This means it can still be very useful for industrial or education purposes, such as engineering modelling, manufacturing, or the study of anatomy. Some of the apps Microsoft has at present are along these lines, and a number of car companies are trialling the technology for their designers.

One Irish company, Action Point, is also using the technology to pitch Hololens applications to companies and educational establishments in Ireland that might benefit from it.

Hololens has potential far beyond today’s system projections. But for now, this is strictly business.

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