In 2015, Microsoft first announced HoloLens, a revolutionary headset that merged the technologies of virtual reality and augmented reality into what the company called Mixed Reality. Wearing the headset, people could still see the world around them but also see and interact with virtual objects. However, the first HoloLens headset was a very bulky device to put on your head.
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The HoloLens 2 headset itself is made of a light carbon-fiber material and Microsoft also added new hardware that is supposed to allow for most people to put it on without having to readjust it. It’s also been designed to be worn for hours with no discomfort. Even if you wear glasses normally, Microsoft says HoloLens 2 will slide over them. The device itself is using a special version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 processor, as Microsoft switches from the Intel-based chip in the original HoloLens to an ARM-based chip for the HoloLens 2.
In terms of the mixed reality tech itself, Microsoft says HoloLens 2 will fully track both the eyes and the hands of its users. This will allow them to “touch” virtual objects such as buttons to interact with menus and other items, and users can also resize objects they see as well. One of the big issues with the original HoloLens was its small field-of-view, but Microsoft says that it has more than doubled the view for seeing virtual objects and items in HoloLens 2.
Microsoft says HoloLens 2 will have a lot of practical applications. It will allow for better real-time collaboration with people using virtual avatars. It could be used in the medical industry to examine patients virtually, for instance. Engineers could use it to help construct new prototypes of products.
The Microsoft HoloLens 2 will be available as a standalone edition for $3,500. While that’s a big drop from the $5,000 launch price of the original HoloLens, it also means that Microsoft is still not targeting the regular consumer for the HoloLens 2. This device is being marketed strictly for business and enterprise customers. However, the company clearly knows that this technology should eventually be in every home.
Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney came on stage during the HoloLens 2 presentation, stating that Unreal Engine 4 — the graphics engine and tools that are used in hundreds of video games (including Fortnite) — will support HoloLens 2. Also, Mozilla is developing a version of its Firefox web browser designed to be run in HoloLens 2. If Microsoft keeps improving the headset, perhaps HoloLens 3 will be the breakthrough for gamers and regular folks when it comes out, presumably in the early 2020s.
You can pre-order HoloLens 2 now from Microsoft, or you can get the device bundled with a Dynamics 365 Remote Assist subscription. This will allow workers like service technicians to collaborate with remote experts. Prices for that bundle begin at $125 a month. Shipments will begin later in 2019.