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My HoloLens acid trip was fascinating, but left a funny taste in my mouth

Jon Phillips | May 4, 2015
HoloLens was the most dazzling tech demo I've ever experienced--but it left me wanting me more. HoloLens did much more than I expected--but made me question whether real people will actually use it in all the ways Microsoft imagines.

HoloLens was the most dazzling tech demo I've ever experienced — but it left me wanting me more. HoloLens did much more than I expected — but made me question whether real people will actually use it in all the ways Microsoft imagines.

HoloLens felt far less isolating and restrictive than the DK2 Oculus Rift headset — but I still felt trapped inside a piece of alien technology. And, yeah, strapped down tight, HoloLens wasn't comfortable to wear. The pressure on the bridge of my nose was intense. It left a funny taste in my mouth.

I collected all these experiences during a brief press demo at Build 2015 on Thursday night. You can read all about how Microsoft uses advanced sensors to project holographic images onto the user's environment here. But if you just want to know what HoloLens is like to use, follow along and I'll regale you with a tale of high-tech trippiness that everyone should experience at least once.

Preparing for reality phase-shifting

Attending journalists are broken up into groups of eight. Why such small collections? Because we're being led into what can only be called custom-built holographic experience rooms in a nearby hotel. One room per person. As our procession of would-be holographic space travelers marches down the hotel hallway, we're cheered along by Microsoft employees. Their overall vibe is, "You're embarking on a life-changing experience and we're very, very happy for you."

I feel like Richard Dreyfuss at the end of Close Encounters when he's suited up and marching toward the alien mothership.

Microsoft also amps up the intrigue by requiring us to put all recording devices in lockers. Are they actually concerned about uncontrolled photography, or just looking to heighten intrigue further? If the latter, kudos. Because who remembers Apple Watch now.

I enter the hotel room. I'll be experiencing the Trimble demo. It's a software package that helps architects envision how their designs will appear in the real world in a much more vivid, palpable, actionable way. Front and center in the hotel room is a small-scale physical model of a building. I love small models of buildings! And tonight I learn they're called maquettes.

Two Microsoft employees serve as my trip advisors. Their patter is cheery and scripted. They can't answer technical questions. I am not allowed to place HoloLens on my head myself. Instead, my peppy new buddy lowers it onto my head, and then I grab and push down on HoloLens' two arms to establish a snugger fit.

But there's one last step. My pal tightens up HoloLens even more with a twist of an adjustment wheel at the rear of the headset. I feel like the apparatus is being screwed into my head. I might be experiencing what the Mayans felt during humankind's earliest brain surgery. I briefly consider the Mayans also did peyote. And now I'll be doing HoloLens. There's some parallelism here.

 

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