The new capabilities of HoloLens 2 reinforce Microsoft's leadership position in a pillar of computing's future. The company's steadfast focus on enterprise productivity, though, may leave it vulnerable as mixed reality becomes more mainstream.
The lengthy incubation of HoloLens 2 left a huge window for another company to jump into the leadership role in mixed reality devices. Despite the progress of Magic Leap in that time, none did, and the HoloLens 2 has shown it was worth the wait.
With the second generation of the pioneering headset, Microsoft has tackled the most glaring deficiency obvious to anyone who tried the original headset: The limited field of view. This had emerged as a particular disappointment when demos of the HoloLens make it appear as if massive holograms can be fully viewed from any angle alongside real-world objects. That may still not be the case, but Microsoft claims it has more than doubled the width of the hologram-accessible field by more than 2x while preserving the original product's resolution. It also claims to have increased the comfort level by 3x with the bottom line being that the product is now placed on one's head as casually as a baseball cap. Despite this, the process still leaves enough time for the iris recognition to automatically log in the wearer.
But the most impressive advance in HoloLens 2 isn't how much more it allows wearers to see horizontally, but how it deals with distance between the wearer and hologram. Objects viewed with the first HoloLens disappeared if you got too close to them, a disadvantage competitors attributed to its lack of light-field technology support. Users of the HoloLens 2, though, can not only cradle objects but get close enough to interact with them using controls such as sliders and buttons with visual and audio feedback. Alas, there is no haptic feedback, although Microsoft claims that it maintains a strong interest in haptics. For now, though, the lack of gloves or controllers actually contributes to the lack of encumbrance that is a design goal of the product. Read more