Our first experience with the Microsoft HoloLens
Recently, Microsoft launched the HoloLens: an exciting new product with the tagline “Go beyond the screen”. This sounded like a doable way to incorporate new hardware and software that goes beyond the natural boundaries. This new type of product can be a real asset in a work environment. Naturally, Narato was immediately intrigued and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a HoloLens ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago we finally received the HoloLens and it sure is an eye catcher. When the box first arrived we were very excited and anxious to get started. Unboxing new material should be an inviting experience to get to know the new gear and Microsoft has done a great job here. The HoloLens sits inside a quality pouch which keeps it safe and secure for transport. The gear can be adapted to the size of your head and doesn’t weigh too much. Wearing it is not uncomfortable and it almost looks stylish 🙂 . When you start working with HoloLens, getting to know the product feels really natural and clear. For example, you can “air-tap” to select items (like clicking with your mouse) but Microsoft also provides an additional clicker, which makes the usage of the HoloLens even more comfortable.
To get to know this product better, some of us here at Narato had the chance to play around with it a little. An ideal starting point is the Holo Tour, which is a virtual walk through Rome or Machu Picchu from an air balloon position. The HoloLens guides you with sounds and spoken instructions. You can also guide or tell HoloLens what to do because it uses Cortana speach technology behind the scenes. Yep, the same Cortana that is coming to your fridge soon.
Next thing we tried was RoboRaid and Fragments. The first is a shooter game where futuristic monsters jump out of your wall. The latter is a crime scene detective game. Both games were very impressively made! The games have a “scan your room” step where you have to walk and look around and the system takes note of your surroundings. When the game starts it incorporates your own room into the game. For example, your table can be something that they place virtual items on, very nifty! Fragments introduces you to a couple of virtual detectives or bad guys and as you move around, you can see them from different angles, as if they were there. You really feel part of the game this way.
Upcoming HoloLens adventures
Whenever there’s new equipment in house we feel the need to start fiddling and working with it. For us, this means a hackathon, a spike or two and some Proof of Concepts. Let’s see what’s on the agenda for Narato and the HoloLens:
Remote drone control: In this PoC, we’ll try to control a drone while seeing through the eyes of the drone camera. The experience would feel like you were linked with the drone. The key learning point here is to link the drone in real time with the HoloLens so that arm movement is controlling the drone.
3D Visualisation: Tibco spotfire is all about data visualisation. We’re going to make a visual 3D scatter chart using the HoloLens. The main learning point here is the creation of 3D models. Normally this is not our cup of tea, but we do like a challenge at Narato.
Remote support: The idea is to visually guide people from a remote location. Imagine you are an engineer on a vessel and there’s something wrong with the engine. If this problem is beyond your comprehension you normally need to fly in an expert. With HoloLens you can make the issue visual and real from a distance so that the expert can guide the engineer to analyse the problem and perhaps solve it without expensive interventions.
There are several options when you want to develop for the HoloLens, depending on your level of expertise. Basically, a HoloLens is a (wearable) adapted version of Windows 10, containing the Windows Holographic API.
Either you develop something in DirectX or you create something in Unity, the gaming engine. There’s a HoloLens emulator for easy testing purposes. The result of your work will be a windows universal app.
Anyway, head over to the site of Microsoft to get started. We will definitely keep you posted about our plans and adventures with the HoloLens.