What Does Hololens 2 Mean for Businesses?

Colin McMahon
Feb 26, 2019

On February 24, 2019, Microsoft unveiled Hololens 2, the successor to its augmented reality headset, Hololens. Almost three years have passed since the developer edition of the first Hololens became commercially available. In that time, numerous other AR, virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) headsets have come to market. All the while, software creators and content developers have used this time to create a wealth of programs – some simple, some quite complex.

For Microsoft, the three-year gap means one significant detail: DATA. The company has had several years to see exactly how its intended clients use Hololens and have created Hololens 2 with what it says are significant improvements for the enterprise space.

How has Hololens Improved?

First off, Microsoft officially classified Hololens 2 as an MR headset. For those confused by the trio of classifications already dividing the enhanced reality market, MR is an advanced form of AR. In MR, virtual objects can “interact” with the physical world – however, the user is operating within reality, not a virtual space. Users equipped with a Hololens 2 will still be able to see (and use) their own hands.

This is one of the key areas where Microsoft says that Hololens 2 has a clear improvement over its predecessor. In the first Hololens, the user controlled the device through hand motions, to“select” items on screen with their fingers. The first Hololens could also be adapted for voice input.

Hololens 2 features a time-of-flight depth sensor, one that functions with built-in AI. Essentially, this means the headset will be able to track a user’s hand movements with greater accuracy. In theory, it means a Hololens 2 user can interact with the virtual world as if it were real. For example, if a user wanted to move a folder out of the way, they could do it by simply “pushing” it off to the side – with a hand gesture as minimal as a finger push or as powerful as a punch.

And speaking of off-to-the-side, Microsoft claims it has more than doubled the field of view (FOV) in the Hololens 2 (no official figure released). Given the first Hololens had between 30-35 degrees FOV, Hololens 2 should clock in at least 60. This will make a huge difference as users no longer need to focus in on a small screen to the side of their vision. It will allow for more seamless work incorporation, allowing a user to focus both on what is on screen and what is in front of them.

The second improvement point Microsoft is touting with Hololens 2 is comfort. The device is designed to be worn for hours at a time – whole job shifts in some cases. As such, it is made of a light carbon-fiber material and features a crank (sort of like the PSVR headset) for quick size adjustment.

Microsoft has also placed functionality at the forefront of its comfort features. For example, businesses working construction can have the device tailor-made to be attached to a hard hat. The screen can also be flipped up if the worker suddenly needs to put all their attention into the real world.

Figure 1: Trimble Connect for HoloLens 2

Hololens 2 Hard hat

Image Source: Microsoft 

Lastly, Microsoft is promoting security with the Hololens 2. Given it is intended as an enterprise device, it could be assumed that multiple employees may be using the same headset. Microsoft says the Hololens 2 will have “enterprise-grade” iris scanning technology. Not only does this mean each user account will be locked behind a retina matching system, it also opens up the Hololens 2 to eye-tracking – a form of user control where the device follows the user’s eyes, reacting to what they are looking at.

Which Hololens Details are Missing?

While Microsoft has promised all of these improvements and more, many specific details are missing from the announcement. The company states that the Hololens 2 will be released later this year. Given that more information will likely be revealed closer to the launch date, Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends (InfoTrends) does not expect a release before Q3 at the earliest.

Those familiar with the industry may be wary of lofty promises without details. Magic Leap made a lot of vague promotional claims about its headset before releasing a device that, while impressive, was not equal to the hype that was built up. In addition, many companies have made bold predictions for the success of AR, VR, and MR in a relatively short amount of time – such as mass-market penetration and an industry valued in the billions.

InfoTrends takes a more pragmatic approach, as does Microsoft. While its talk of its Hololens 2 is very promotional, InfoTrends expects that this device will deliver on many of the goals Microsoft set out in its announcement. The company is not known for leading investors and developers astray with high expectations that bring a disconnect to the actual product.

While details are scarce at this stage, InfoTrends does not see this as any cause for alarm or doubt.

Is Hololens Ready for the Consumer Market?

Microsoft has been clear on its expectations for the Hololens 2. Like its predecessor, this is not a device for the consumer market. At $3,500, it would be far too expensive for the average consumer. There is also little in the way of home content. At present, Microsoft is partnering with other enterprise developers to push out software and tools for the Hololens 2, all of which are aimed at the enterprise arena.

Perhaps the Hololens 3 will be the headset to make the jump out of the business space but, given that Hololens 2 was released three years after the first, companies should not expect anything before 2022. In the meantime, Hololens 2 looks to be a substantial advancement in MR headset technology and a useful tool for enterprises looking to augment their employees with the latest productivity-boosting technology.

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