Friday, December 13, 2019
Mixed RealityMR glassesNews

HoloLens 2: A Look into the Technology Powering Microsoft’s New MR Headset

We were already excited about the HoloLens 2. Now we know more about the MR headset.

 

Over three years ago, technology giant Microsoft released its mixed reality headset. After all that time, the HoloLens remains one of the most technologically advanced MR headsets on the market. It’s also one of the most expensive.

That doesn’t mean that the HoloLens 2 hasn’t been highly anticipated. Microsoft announced the second generation model earlier this year.

In the intervening months, Microsoft released loads of promotional content about what the new HoloLens can do. Now that the MR headset is ready to ship, Microsoft published an article on how the HoloLens 2 does what it does.

AI User Features

Microsoft HoloLens 2

For any MR headset to be worth its price tag – and the HoloLens series has a big price tag – it can’t just be functional. It also needs to be useable.

Becoming a mixed reality expert has a steep learning curve. However, the HoloLens isn’t meant to be used by just MR experts.

We want you to know how to use HoloLens without having to be taught how to use it,” Jamie Shotton, who leads the HoloLens science team in the UK, told John Roach of Microsoft.

To make this happen, Microsoft used artificial intelligence and machine learning. Researchers fed computers data on how users move their hands and eyes while interacting with the world. Essentially, Microsoft teaches HoloLens how to work with people rather than demanding that people learn how to work with HoloLens.

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“Without eye tracking, aligning holograms to the real world – especially the person’s physical hand – would just be impossible to the level of precision needed to allow instinctual interaction,” said Shotton.

Cloud Computing

When people talk about the tech of the future, AI is often one of the first things mentioned. The cloud isn’t far behind.

While most of us use the cloud, most of us use it for sharing and storing files. Useful for sure, but hardly the height of its ability.

When paired with AI, cloud databases become instructional content for machine learning.

Giving HoloLens access to Azure – Microsoft’s cloud computing platform – allows storage and file sharing. It also exponentially increases a user’s computing power.

HoloLens experiences are even compatible with other devices. That includes mobile devices, laptops, and other MR headsets.

On-Board Processor

It would be easiest for Microsoft to have all computing done on the cloud. That would reduce the necessary on-board processing power.

However, having content on the cloud doesn’t only make it more available to friends and colleagues. It also makes it more vulnerable to cyber attacks. That’s a huge potential problem when the device works by scanning the user’s eyes.

As a result, the HoloLens 2 has huge on-board computing power. That allows users to upload less sensitive information to the cloud while keeping more private content on their device. It also means that the MR headset doesn’t become a $4k paperweight when not connected to the internet.

hololens 2 microsoft MR headset

The Competition

While some companies might shudder at the idea of composing an article about how they make their flagship technology, Microsoft knows what it’s doing.

There was already high hype for the HoloLens 2. Releasing their article didn’t just give consumers more to be excited about. It also let us compare the HoloLens 2 with its competitors.

The field of MR headsets is rapidly growing and changing. However, the biggest competition for HoloLens remains Magic Leap.

The Magic Leap One first got into users’ hands in 2018. It doesn’t have the cloud connectivity that HoloLens does. It also uses controllers rather than hand gestures. One big bonus for Magic Leap is that its on-board processing unit is a portable pack rather than being built into the headset. That means a lighter headset.

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The Future

Whether you’re a Magic Leap User, a HoloLens user, or just a spectator, HoloLens 2 is a thrilling development.

Microsoft is doing things that have never been done before. In doing so, they are likely drawing a blueprint for future generations of MR headsets.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance writer specializing in Technology and Health. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife and cat.