Microsoft showed off its HoloLens headset at its Build Developer Conference in San Francisco, but didn’t reveal a price or release date (a source told the New York Times that it would cost significantly more than a game console). None of the people who saw it were allowed to bring along electronic devices to record demos, limiting their ability to analyze the gear.
However, UC Davis holodeck researcher Oliver Kreylos offers the most technically in-depth breakdown of the insert-objects-into-your-living-room technology and noted “darkened demo rooms” helped HoloLens considerably while a bright background made virtual objects “barely visible.”
He estimated the field of view (using his fingers) to be about 30 degrees by 17.5 degrees, compared with the second Oculus development kit’s field of view of 100 degrees by 100 degrees. So instead of a mixed reality that seems to sprawl across your living room, “virtual objects only appear in the center of the viewer’s field of view, which turns out to be very distracting and annoying.”
This raises serious questions about whether this approach to mixing realities will be useful for entertainment. Kreylos dissects an example from the Microsoft demo of the technology which shows a presenter who snapped “a video player window to a wall, and enlarged it to fill the entire wall, to simulate a very big screen TV. In reality, the presenter would only have been able to see a small part of the video at a time, and would have had to move his head around to see other parts.”
These descriptions suggest HoloLens won’t be taking over your living room for gaming as Magic Leap aims to do, but will be targeted at professional applications. If customers are not price sensitive, perhaps it could be combined with projectors from Microsoft’s RoomAlive concept to enhance the HoloLens’ field of view.
In conclusion, Kreylos writes “Microsoft is close to a releasable product that I would use;” but he wants to see the field of view increased, “which is probably going to be very difficult.”
For more, check out the hands-ons from Harry McCracken at Fast Company and Adi Robertson at The Verge as well as a video from the guys at Tested.
Unity is also integrating its development platform with HoloLens.
False advertising and over-hyping VR
Public Hololens demos have unleashed a new wave of criticism directed at Microsoft for embellishing the system’s immersiveness in their concept videos and on-stage demos, but Microsoft is hardly alone in overpromising this week.
Samsung released a video advertising its new “Avengers” experience which might mislead people into believing the Gear VR Innovator Edition for the S6 can do things that aren’t possible yet, namely tracking your hands and feet to allow you to control the heroes from the film (in reality the experience, developed by Framestore, is a slow motion action video somewhat like Epic’s “showdown” demonstration). This raised concerns in the community that new users drawn in by the campaign would be let down by the lack of interactivity rather than impressed by the current state of the technology.
There’s also a viral headline about a Mobile Jam project called Project Elysium promising an experience “reuniting people with loved ones who have passed.” The developers behind the experience can only do so much with the hardware available, but the project has led to viral headlines like “could Oculus Rift bring people back from the dead?”
“What sensational headlines like these do is create extremely unreasonable expectations for VR,” USC researcher Jacquelyn Ford Morie writes. “The same thing that happened towards the end of the 1990s in VR's first popularization. When those promises don't pan out, then people are disappointed and things start to falter.”
Valve released an updated beta for SteamVR and OpenVR. Both support the Rift for development as well as the upcoming HTC Vive Developer Edition.