I tried the near-finalized version of HoloLens, this is what I think

Late yesterday, some of us were able to try once again Microsoft's HoloLens here at Build 2015. This experience was my second time with the wearable holographic device, and 99 days since its announcement, Microsoft has made some significant strides. You can read about my January experience here.

For one, the HoloLens device we were able to use this time was the near-finalized prototype. The version we wore in January was a computer around your neck and a mishmash of hardware used for testing purposes.

Personally, I find it remarkable that this thing even exists. It truly has no wires or tether. In terms of weight, it is not light but it is far from heavy. Since it is well balanced in terms of weight distribution, wearing it on your head feels fine. My motorcycle helmet is much more cumbersome, by comparison.

The big feature Microsoft was demonstrating this time were the Unity and Visual Studio coding tools. Since HoloLens runs off of Windows 10, it takes Windows 10 apps. These tools mean any developer can now make an app that runs on Xbox, PC, phone, or even turn it into a hologram.

The developer tools were only finished last week, and as such were a little rough. However, we were able to implement audio, gestures, speech commands, initiate spatial mapping, and then we compiled and deployed apps to our HoloLens. While many of us in the press did not of course write our own programs, earlier in the day, real developers did in a longer four-hour session.

This stuff is all real, folks.

HoloLens

Some early complaints

Watch the video above to see my immediate reaction to wearing and using HoloLens, including some criticisms.

In short, many of us in the media thought that many aspects were exceptionally well done e.g. gestures, voice commands, spatial mapping and spatial audio effects. However, the one things that bothered many was the limited view of the holograms.

By comparison, in the demonstration and promo videos for HoloLens, users appear to be walking in a world where holograms are surrounding us. Technically, this is true. The real experience though is you only see holograms in your direct line of sight. It's akin to having a tablet in front of you with media on it, but sometimes you cannot even see the whole hologram without moving your head to 'scan' for it.

The lack of holograms in your peripheral vision is just an odd experience. Someone of told me it is similar to wearing transition lenses, which also have a similar, limiting effect. In fairness to Microsoft, this is likely just a limitation of the technology and size constraints of the lenses used in the device. Paul Thurrott had heard but was unable to confirm that the hologram field-of-view was purposefully kept smaller to reduce motion sickness (something common with VR headsets like Oculus).

HoloLens

This complaint is more of a contrast between expectation and reality though. Once you get used to this direct line-of-sight view and moving your head to see things, it's not bad. It is just not how we normally see things in the world: objects stay in our peripheral, even if we cannot 100% "see" them in full detail.

Either way, 1.0 version of such technology will have limitations. The fact that this stuff exists, it is coming to market (when and for how much is unknown), and the developer tools for regular developers are almost here is quite remarkable.

I do not quite think this is a straight consumer device like an Xbox One just yet, however. Instead, I envision Microsoft releasing it to industry, artists, engineers, schools, and hospitals first. After a few iterations and as the price comes down, it will trickle to the mass consumer market. Microsoft, however, has not yet defined their plans for HoloLens, so we will have to wait and see.

Special Edition - Windows Weekly today

Want more of my reactions to Build 2015? Join me later today as I'll be live, in the TWiT studio to do a special Build edition of Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley. You will not want to miss this show! We'll post more info later on where to watch and what time (2pm PT).

Follow the rest of our coverage of Build 2015 on our main topic page!

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

146 Comments
  • Awesome wish I were you.. I'll buy it in India here
  • Just to be first, just to be first...
  • I'm really disappointed with the "rectangular vision" thing
  • It's required to direct the light to ur eyes. This is not like 2d pixels its way beyond that
  • Lol no that's not true. In January, it was in your peripherals but this past week it wasn't.
  • Likely many factors. Cost is a big consideration. Keeping the cost low enough is huge as to whether the adoption rate will be high enough. Safety, nausia, etc. likely also came into play. There may be other gaming only versions down the road with better side vision.
  • If this version of the HoloLens was $500, I would rather pay $1500 for the version described back in January. I hope the team goes back to the drawing board and at least expands the field of view to something that the press isn't going to bash upon release.
  • I wonder if safety is a considering factor with the limited hologram peripheral vision. I was wondering watching the videos of them walking around in a construction zone with holograms overlayed in it how they know not to walk into walls or into holes. Seemed kind of dangerous.
  • You can still see the real world around you. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • That would be self defeating as well. If it doesn't 100% opaque the real world behind the hologram, that's a bad experience. If it does, you risk walking into something.
  • Soo jealous
  • Right?! I'll only be able to do this months from now.
  • What does it basically do?
  • Displays holograms
  • How. Does it have a memory in which objects are stored or by simply thinking or what.
  • It's a wearable computer. It responds to eye movement, voice commands and hand gestures. It's mapping your surroundings and understands them as 3D forms, and can then seat virtual objects on them. Any ordinary app can become a 3D object in this world, either as a complex form or as a flat rectangle of whatever you'd see on a normal screen except you can turn it, stretch it and click it with your finger as a pointer.
  • Nice explanation
  • This was a GREAT explanation. Its a computer on your head, with some unbelievable sensors and parts. When i saw it few months ago, i was in WOW, and I'm still in WOW. This futuristic device has lots of potential, for MANY different type of uses, all over the world. Now this a game changer device, NOT a garage MacCrap book, wanta be Killer PC.   I wonder how long before CrApple COPIES this AWESOME device AGAIN and tell the world they invented iHololense? Remember when Mr. Bill gates introduced the 1st tablet PC in 2000? Now if you ask any iSHEEP, they will tell you CrApple was the 1st to have tablet in 2010 and Microsoft surface was a copy(at least 1 in 10000 or so may know, CrApple did NOT invent ANYTHING whatsoever, and everything they have is a COPY from someone else). 
  • Hahaha nice lecture
  • its the truth. CrApple=Copy, then lie about it.
  • Apple doesn't invent anything. They take existing technology and design it better.  They don't cut corners either. If I could thank them for one thing, it would be moving the industry to refined metal chassis instead of the same cost cutting sheet metal and plastic.
  • How about Cortana as a hologram
  • That's a given, although her attire may be a bit more modest.
     
  • Maybe it'll be user "configurable".  
  • LOL! If you are the one, how do you 'configure' her?
  • I'm with Saras112.  Daniel. I thought we were friends. :)
  • So if you die in the HoloLens do you die in the real world?
  • No... You just wake up.. Holoception!
  • Yes you will die.
  • Only if you take the blue pill.
  • Hahahahhahahahahahahaha
  • *Attaches the "I understood that reference" Captain America gif*
  • How would it be if one dies in real world playing Minecraft wearing Hololens? What a terrible thought XD
  • It's just the Universe defragging itself.
  • You will die then fade away.
  • Yes, The body cannot exist without the mind...
  • Lol you will die in mine craft .
  • Well, since there's no "Akihiko Kayaba" working at Microsoft, methinks you're safe. (Though this thing looks more like the amusphere if you ask me...)
  • If you wear it in front of a moving bus
  • The most important takeway of this article: Dan drives a motorcycle.
  • Also, that a HoloLens would make a great integrated tech for a motorcycle helmet. HUD anyone?
  • yes, Yes, YES!
  • Dude! I'd want to buy a motorcycle just to get that HUD! Awesome idea! GPS Navigation by hologram HUD? Awesome. Skype phone call on the road inside your helmet? Awesome! Too many uses for that. Someone has got to do it. Racecar driver helmets? Yeah! Identifies other cars on the track, locates stray debris, etc. How about a hololens for a driver at night that helps spot deer on the side of the road and alerts the driver? That kind of stuff would be great for safety.
  • Skype Video while driving? Who asked how you could die waering a Hololens? This is it! HUDs for driving, eigther for motocycles or cars, have to be very limited so that they realy support instead of distract you. They should help you to keep your attention on the road. Therefore holographic navigation could be a good idear and so is augmented reality with nightvision or infrared sight. But that already exists build in into the front window of some cars. But for shure this could be improved. I'm just not shure if I'd like to wear a Hololens while driving for hours on Autobahn.
  • Already done with Android. Check out Skully helmets. HUD with rear view and GPS nav. http://www.skully.com They run about $1500, so careful what you wish for.
  • IKR? +10 sexy points, Daniel.
  • Journalistic approach is starting to remind me of Jason Mick at DailyTech. It's not to the point that I can tell the author just by reading the article title yet though.
  • Really looking forward to today's Windows Weekly! Screen Savers returns on TWiT.tv too!!!
  • Me two always watch the ones with windows central crew.
  • So jealous, I'll be a little disappointed if this isn't brought to the consumer level fast! However on the other hand perhaps a v2 consumer level will have a better field of view!
  • Hopefully, and it might even get fixed before the first release. Not likely tho...
  • Dan, can you answer a question that no one seems to be answering: do the images exist in focus with where they are in space or are they just overlays? In other words, are they using light field technology or just a simple video overlay?
  • Not too sure how to answer you but it's closer to the video overlay, objects get further away but are always in focus if that helps?
  • Everyone in my living room got wet when they saw that medical demo of the guy with the huge package
  • So do you think I should buy it and will be satisfied? Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • Yes, there is clearly enough information available to say you should buy and will be 100% satisfied. /s obviously. I hope that the wasn't a serious question.
  • Not 100%, the "small rectangular vision"thing is a letdown
  • It is a serious question. It has great features but flaws that could be a deal breaker. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • If it was availble today, I would wait, the product is only as good as the software is, if it takes a while for a library of software to be availabe, then I would wait... If you got one today and there was only 3 programs for it, it would be cool for a week or 2, then it will sit on your shelf collecting dust...
  • I don't think so. remember you have Windows 10, and Skype on it, along with outlook and few other software. So even if it comes with 3 or 4 software(which i beleive it will come with a lot more), you can still do many things with it, till more software/apps will come to it. remember its a full computer. You can even watch videos, Office, Skype, play games like minecraft and more................and alot more on it.  the things Hololens can do will be limitless, as soon as you buy it. it will NOT sit on a shelf, i can assure you that. This is NOT an overrtaed,...... TOY that CrApple sells, with an stupid EVIL fruity logo on it.  
  • Dude it runs Windows 10 Apps ! So pretty lot of Store Apps will run in a standard presentation, as well as basic Video. For us Developers this is an awesome new field  to develop against. Just dive in and create new experiences.  
  • I analyzed your face when you said "Microsoft is definitely getting ready to sell this sometime, hopefully this year". I bet you know more... Oh, and nice sweater. ;)
  • And that what makes this a blog and not a news site. A shame there isn't really a tech news site that digs for answers, I guess Gizmodo does that sometimes, but they are also super opinionated.
  • What defines a "real" news site in your opinion? Not all information is free to reveal to the public you know.
  • Reporting is getting the truth, not just accepting it and then repeating it. Basically, investigation, not invitation, or more like science, not religion. Any site can reprint press releases, give opinions of them, and also do reviews.
    I get that is hard in tech because many things are trade secrets, people don't want to lose their jobs, etc. That's just what it is.
    If you have information you can't revel you might as well be getting paid by the people stopping you from reveling it otherwise you know just to know, and what's the point of information if you can't use it?
  • Except this whole thread is bullshit.
    "I analyzed your face when you said "Microsoft is definitely getting ready to sell this sometime, hopefully this year". I bet you know more..."
    Give me a freaking break. We signed no NDAs, we can say whatever we want. I have no idea on what their plans are for this device, pricing, timeframes, etc. I'm not holding back on that because no one in the media knows this. My hunch is the holiday season, because, duh. My other hunch is Microsoft is still feeling it out on how to sell and market this thing. The rest of your post is just verbal masturbation. Although I do love it when people not involved in this "business" pretend to know how it works and then to go further to tell us how we should be operating. Nothing condescending or ignorant about that, no sir.
  • You admitted as much when talking about updates and devices in the past. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, I love this site, I just know the difference and wish there was more money in sharing the truth rather than hiding it. That's true in business and politics. The op was teasing, I was venting.
  • My wife agrees I need this :). Seriously the value will be software driven. Bring it on. Oh and eat that Apple watch.
  • Can't wait till it's finalized. I hope they give a wider viewing angle.
  • So basically its like pixelsense(surface) not yet ready or cost-effective for home use