Picture the following: You purchase an old car and want to fix it but have no idea how. So you put on a headset and receive detailed, step-by-step instructions – including being shown precisely what piece you need to use next and exactly where to place it – in real-time. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie?
Enter HoloLens 2, a mixed reality (MR) headset that helps people “learn, collaborate and communicate more effectively.” Once you slip it on, it identifies where you’re holding in a project and a set of clear digital instructions pops up in front of you. Neon blue arrows show you what piece to pick up and where to place it.
You can think of HoloLens 2 as Google Maps directions for projects – except that HoloLens 2 merges the real and virtual worlds to produce an environment where physical and digital objects interact in real time. The result? HoloLens 2 enables users to do things they never imagined possible.
HoloLens 2 has an 8 megapixel camera that allows you to meet/video conference with others who are working on the same project and interact with the MR setting together. It tracks eye and hand movements to help identify what you’re doing so it can provide better direction.
The original HoloLens, released in March 2016, featured a headset that felt heavy, was difficult to put on, and didn’t always fit over glasses. The worst part was that the field of view – the area where you see the directions – was small and sometimes, if you moved your head too far, disappeared entirely.
HoloLens 2 is a more sophisticated version of the original HoloLens without any of the issues that plagued its predecessor. First off, the headset fits comfortably on the head. Microsoft scanned the heads of thousands of people from different races and ethnicities to ensure the headset it created would be comfortable for everyone. The new headset is made out of plastic and carbon fiber so it feels light. And the best part? It has double the field of vision as the original model.
HoloLens 2 is geared for enterprising customers. As such, Microsoft is allowing companies to customize their HoloLens to suit their industry and workers before purchase. For example, a company in the construction industry might want the HoloLens they purchase to look like construction hats.
There is speculation that Microsoft’s next mixed reality model could be geared to the general public. It’s not hard to envision how the average person could benefit from it. For example, you could enter a grocery store to purchase some fresh fish, put on a pair of HoloLens, and have it direct you to the fresh fish section. The HoloLens could also teach you how to build a bike or show you what new furniture or even a new paint color would look like in your home.
But the big question remains: Will HoloLens 2 sell – especially at $3,500 per headset? The market for mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) gear is expected to rise in the coming years. In fact, according to Statistica, sales are expected to jump from under $6 billion last year to a whopping $200 billion in the year 2025. Magic Leap, backed by large corporations such as AT&T and Google, has been shipping AR headsets since August, and Facebook and Apple are both reportedly working on their own version of HoloLens 2.
However, the jury on HoloLens 2 is still out. Many technological innovations that seemed like “a sure thing” have failed miserably in real life. Consumers don’t always adapt to technological advancements the way companies think they will.
Microsoft plans to ship HoloLens 2 later this year. They will be sold in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, France, Ireland, Germany, Japan, and China, and can be pre-ordered.