HoloLens: mixed reality by Microsoft version


While virtual reality is slowly making its way into life (VR helmets like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, not to mention the hundreds of different variations of Google Cardboard, have been sold for a long time and have already managed to assemble their own group of enthusiasts), augmented and mixed reality is still in the experimental stage. Google Glass was closed 2 years ago, and other similar projects are still mostly "brewed in their own juice" and outside their niche are almost unknown – in the end, for example, the loudest project using a mixed reality was … the game Pok√©mon Go.

Against this backdrop, Microsoft HoloLens – a commercial product available to any buyer (ready to pay a large sum for it) – looks especially unusual. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to personally touch the "holographic Windows 10", I readily took advantage of it.

HoloLens exists in two versions – a more expensive Commercial Suite aimed at end-users, and intended for developers Development Edition, which costs almost twice cheaper ($ 3000 against $ 5000). In my hands came the second version (which, however, neither in characteristics nor in appearance from the first does not differ).

Perhaps, once again it is necessary to clarify the situation with terminology, so that later there would not be confusion. "Augmented reality" is a technology in which a layer with additional information superimposed on real objects is superimposed over the image of the real world. "Mixed reality" is a technology that adds virtual objects to the image of the real world, which interact with the surrounding reality as far as the forces and capabilities of technology are concerned. Thus, a smartphone that takes your room to the camera and adds a virtual kitty to the table next to the monitor (which you can go around and look around from) shows a "mixed" reality. And the conceptual windshield of the car, on which the driver sees the current speed, the map and the temperature of the asphalt – shows the reality "augmented". And Microsoft HoloLens uses mixed reality – that's how they differ from Google Glass, which were glasses of augmented reality.

Unlike the same Google Glass, which was as thin as possible, light and really looked like high-tech glasses, Microsoft HoloLens rather resembles a compact VR-helmet. It's such a hoop that hangs on the head and is fixed on top of it with a small strap, and the front part with displays and other stuffing is covered with translucent plastic, because of what it starts to look like a fragment of some motorcycle helmet. The design is not very light (almost 600 g), it sits quite comfortably thanks to the soft linings on the inner surface, however it is not a matter of two seconds to adjust the HoloLens under your head. For ordinary glasses inside a place there are few – compact models will fit, though with difficulty, but larger or "sweeping" glasses in HoloLens, most likely, do not fit in. Naturally, such a design will not be able to be worn on a permanent basis – rather serious, as for portable electronics, the dimensions and weight are forced to remove glasses immediately after the end of the session.

However, such sizes have one simple excuse: Microsoft HoloLens is completely self-sufficient and not require a connection to the computer. In fact, they themselves are a computer running on the basis of Windows 10 IoT, and inside, besides the CPU / GPU from Intel, there is also HPU (Holographic Processing Unit) of its own design, designed for processing data from sensors ("digitizing" recognition of gestures, etc.). Plus 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal memory, which installs applications from the local Windows Store. The glasses are completely wireless, according to different data, from "three hours under heavy load" (official information of Microsoft) and up to "5 hours in normal mode" (words of HoloLens owner). They are charged via micro-USB, while they remain fully operational – except they turn into "wired."

Unlike VR helmets, where you are shown an image on screens directly in front of your nose, at Microsoft HoloLens you look at the the real world with your own eyes through two transparent glasses, to which a holographic image is derived. So no nausea or dizziness associated with a lack of qualitative drawing of the world or the inconsistency of what the eyes see, with what the body feels (a common thing for VR), it's not close. But there is also a drawback in this solution – objects from mixed reality are not visible in the entire field of view, but only in a relatively small rectangle in the middle (depending on the distance from the eyes to the lens, it can be more or less, it feels like a 60-inch screen with distances of a couple of meters). At first, it's quite embarrassing – when in the middle of the ordinary world there is such a spot, snatching out invisible objects out of nowhere, but you quickly get used to it, and when interacting with virtual objects, vision becomes "tunneled" – you completely focus on what is happening in the center, not paying attention to what is on the periphery. Another disadvantage of the design is overlapping the survey from the top, which makes it quite difficult to bully your head if you need to look up. Virtual objects ("holograms") look quite material – the image is saturated, with bright colors, opaque objects are really opaque, so that the feeling that you're looking at the ordinary world through a translucent screen does not arise.

HoloLens equipped with five cameras (two pairs of conventional over the eyes and one – the depth chamber – in the center) scanning the space, and based on this data, glasses build a three-dimensional model of the environment around you. In it you can freely walk and arrange virtual objects on real tables, hang windows applications on walls, etc. Thus, HoloLens does not use external sensors to track the position in space, which means that the user is not limited to a small area in which these sensors operate. Moreover, thanks to georeferenced GPS, you can "equip" your virtual place, go with glasses to another city, then go back – and find all the items in their places.

You can control mixed reality with your hand (grabbing objects with your fingers) , but for a long time so not "podirizhiruesh" – a few minutes later the hand begins to tire of tired. Therefore, for simpler control, a miniature gyroscopic mouse with a single button ("clicker") connected via Bluetooth is used (in the same way you can connect an ordinary wireless keyboard if you do not want to type text, poking your finger into virtual one). The only thing that can not be done with the help of a clicker is to call the main menu; for this it is necessary to "bring" the fist into the field of view and open the palm (a gesture remotely reminiscent of the opening of the flower) – after that a square filled with tiles of applications will appear in the center. It is displayed on top of the whole image, therefore, unlike other objects, the main menu hangs in the air and slowly "drifts" after the rotation of the head. Well, since Windows 10 is used as the operating system in HoloLens, the glasses support voice control via the virtual assistant to Cortana.

Management, frankly, does not much resemble the Minority Report, and gestures with hands (maybe with unaccustomed) I got through the times – it was much easier to do all the operations with the mouse clicker (in the center of the view there is a point to be sent to the required element and press the confirmation button). The clicker is tracked by changing the position in space, so to scroll the page in the browser or stretch the window, just hold down its button and move it up / down or to the side.

For a quick demonstration of the HoloLens capabilities, various toys like a hamster in the wheel or application windows are usually used (browser, video player, diagrams, etc.), attached to the walls. The glasses are built in miniature speakers (located in orange bars at the bottom of the "arc"), and the sounds produced by virtual objects are perfectly positioned and change their position when you move in space.

Instead of the results
HoloLens gives the impression of just an interesting and unusual gadget for mixed reality games (worth several thousand dollars) – except for the most basic demos, the Store can find various entertainment applications and games like Young Conker (the adventures of Sumy came down proteins), Galaxy Explorer (three-dimensional model of the galaxy), Holo Measure (distance measuring instrument, the areas and volumes of objects in the real world), etc. In other words, at least for the current home user the purchase of Microsoft HoloLens does not make much sense – even if it cost several times cheaper. However, in business or education for him already now you can find practical application, and here everything is limited only by the client's imagination. The interior design of the new house, a walk through the virtual showroom (by the way, Volvo already cooperates with Microsoft in this regard), students studying the structure of the human body, prototyping new devices, etc. – and with the reduction in cost and the improvement of technology (first of all – the reduction in the size of glasses and the increase in the viewing angle), the sphere of application for HoloLens will only expand.

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