The HoloLens represents everything that is both good and bad in Mixed Reality. Early this week the HoloLens 2 was released, and it looks great. It’s vastly improved from the first edition and effectively solves user problems.
While enjoying the praise for HoloLens 2, Microsoft is dealing with a significant problem. Employees are protesting the use of HoloLens by the US Army, and even wrote an open letter called “HoloLens For Good, Not War”.
Here’s an excerpt:
“We refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we build. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”
The progress of HoloLens and its controversy are a timely reminder of the changing world of emerging technology. Tech titans no longer bath in unadulterated and gushing praise. Every step forward now comes with bigger questions around privacy and ethics.
We see this ethics debate playing out in the other 3 technologies I picked for 2019:
- Sensors everywhere
- Edge computing
- Quantum computing
Watch this video if you want to dive deeper into the Top 5 technologies for 2019.
HoloLens 2 and Mixed Reality
Microsoft announced that HoloLens 2 would be available for $3,500 later this year. Let’s look at some of the developments:
- Double the field of view
- More comfort – lighter
- Hand tracking – full hand tracking
These improvements are due to lots of hardware and software improvements that are a significant leap from the first edition. For more hardware details, watch this review.
The primary competitor for HoloLens is much-hyped MagicLeap One. It launched last year to decidedly mixed reviews. If HoloLens 1 was an MVP, then MagicLeap One was a Beta.
How Mixed Reality and HoloLens work
Mixed Reality is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new worlds, environments and visualisations where physical and digital objects combine and interact in real time.
A Mixed Reality experience starts with wearing a headset that overlays a digital world on top of the analogue world you see in front of you. Mixed Reality is also related to or sometimes confused with Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) or Real Reality (RR).
You may have heard of Windows Mixed Reality which was previously called Windows Holographic. WMR is a Mixed Reality platform which is part of the Windows 10 operating system, providing holographic and MR experiences. HoloLens 2 integrates with WMR.
Not for consumers
Microsoft has made a wise choice by focusing on the needs of workers, and not on consumers.
Google Glass made the mistake by trying to be a consumer product. The product failed because it committed a cardinal sin of design — social deviance. Social deviance means the intrusive camera experience of Google Glass was a behaviour that violates cultural norms. People felt weird when talking to someone wearing the glasses.
This problem doesn’t exist when we move from households to schools and workplaces. The HoloLens is for first-line workers. These users of HoloLens are performing task-based jobs in industries like healthcare, travel and manufacturing.
Here are just a few uses cases for the HoloLens 2:
- Users that work with their hands in a factory or warehouse
- Doctors and healthcare
- Mechanics and engineering
- Learning and education
The opportunity for Microsoft is to use HoloLens to leverage its Intelligent Cloud architecture. This cloud-based architecture means HoloLens can fit into the world of business applications and infrastructure.
Technology aside for a moment, Microsoft has arrived at a crossroads. Do they work with military and defence or not? Google and Amazon faced the same sort of challenges last year, and the result was protests and resignations from staff.
Here is the full Microsoft Keynote HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019.