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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.

My handler tells me the "room" is a work-in-progress. Architects still have design decisions to make. But wait! Someone has left a holographic note for me. There's only one way to read it, and the trigger is very precise: I hold my hand about 18 inches from my chest, and click once — please, only once — with a deliberate up-and-down motion of my index finger.

The experience continues to feel relatively natural, all the sheer newness of HoloLens notwithstanding. A crude holographic avatar — he's low-res and naked — leaves me a message about sightlines through the windows of the wall. (Or at least that's what I remember by the time I'm back to full, non-augmented reality. Taking notes with pen and paper is all but impossible when you're HoloLensing out.) I can see the entire wall in holographic cutaway. I can see the cityscape beyond, all in the same photorealism of my earlier street-view experience. HoloLens continues to be a dazzling high-tech trip.

I complete the journey by leaving my own holographic note. Clicking a holographic hotspot, I leave an audio message for my architect friend: "That pipe is in the way!" An index finger tap lets me hear the message I left. Audio is clear through the HoloLens earpiece. I click again, and my handler congratulates me for being the only person to click a second time. I'm pretty damned proud, because my group of eight Hololens reality travelers is the last of Build 2015.

Less isolating that Oculus Rift

The trip is over. My handler helps me remove HoloLens, and the bridge of my nose enjoys the release. But as I come back down to earth, I don't feel the same degree of what I'd call "reality phase-shifting," from real-world to virtual to real-world again, like I have with Oculus Rift. HoloLens is weird. It's alien. But it's not over-the-top isolating. I didn't feel I needed to submit to it, like I have with Oculus.

And to be sure, the sheer surprise-and-delight factor of holographic augmented reality is off the charts. But do we really want so much other-worldly sensory overload? My Trimble demo was designed to show how real-world professionals can use augmented reality in a relatively utilitarian enterprise setting, but I can't see an architect using these goggles for big chunks of a workday.

HoloLens is still too heavy, still too tight on the noggin, and (apparently) still too sensitive to just toss on and off at will. What I experienced also didn't match the resolution, polish and model detailing that we saw on the Build keynote stage, or what's been portrayed in videos.


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