Yesterday, Microsoft has opened pre-orders on HoloLens 2 — “only” $ 3,500 — to the end of the year will begin shipping devices. However, the company decided to sell them only to corporate clients who want to provide these headsets their workers. To date, the company has not even announced a version for developers. If you compare the second version of the device HoloLens, which we saw four years ago, it is better in almost everything. It, she has a wider viewing angle, better detects physical objects in the room.
Also added new components like Azure, Kinect sensor, ARM processor, sensors, eye movement, and a brand new display system.
Microsoft HoloLens 2: mixed reality headset for plants
The headset has a pair of speakers, lifting the transparent plate, and your hand motions are read more accurately than before. Video conferencing features an 8-megapixel front camera, and charging from the USB-C. in short, the HoloLens 2 loaded with new technologies to the eyeballs. But isn’t it what we could expect after four years?
The biggest complaint on the first HoloLens was simple: you could see the hologram only in a relatively small box directly in front of you. Turn your head a little bit and they disappear. Worse, their edges disappear, even if you were staring right at them. It seemed as if you look at the digital world through a tiny rectangle.
Field of view in HoloLens 2 twice. It does not completely fill your field of vision, it is still limited — but it’s big enough now to not be annoyed by extraneous icons. Microsoft States that each eye has the equivalent of a display with 2K resolution, but it is better to take this as a metaphor rather than exact specifications. Precise specification of sounds like “the holographic density of 47 pixels per degree”, which means “the pixel density is quite high, so you can read 8-point font.”
Typically, when a technical product gets improved performance, as in this case, this is due to obvious technical iteration: faster processors, bigger battery, more RAM and so on. But this strategy would not work for the HoloLens display 2. He was supposed to be easier, not harder. Therefore, Microsoft had to completely switch to another type of display technology.
Lasers and mirrors
Laser displays — we have computers on their faces. The project Vaunt Intel used lasers, smart glasses Focals North. Although Microsoft uses the same basic components, it moves in the other direction and goes further in development.
Lasers in HoloLens 2 Shine on a series of mirrors that oscillate at a speed of 54 000 cycles per second, so that the reflected light can paint the display. These two parts together form the basis of the micro-Electromechanical system displays (MEMS). To make this quite difficult, but the hardest part of the MEMS display is to display images directly on the eyeball.
One of the solutions that have used companies like North is a holographic film on the lens which reflects the image directly onto your retina. The scheme has many flaws: a tiny display and low resolution, among other things. But the problem is simple ensure that the display was sent directly into the eyes. North points are configured individually, and the image may disappear completely in case of violation of alignment.
Microsoft doesn’t want to deal with such problems, therefore, appealed to much the same pattern that was in the first HoloLens: the waveguides. It’s bits of glass before your eyes, carefully etched to reflect the hologram in front of your eye. The waveguides on HoloLens 2 become easier because Microsoft uses two glass plates sandwiches instead of three.
Gathering the whole system together — lasers, mirrors, and waveguides — you get a brighter display with wider field of view that do not exactly look you in the eye for the job. Zulfi Alam, General Manager, Optics Engineering at Microsoft, says that Microsoft is ahead of development of such systems and that the waveguides required for a mixed reality. “Over the next two or three years will not be competitors who might come close to this level of precision in waveguides”, he says.
You need a wider field of view? Easily. Just increase the angle of the mirrors reflecting the laser light. Wider angle means more image.
Need more vivid images? Even easier. To lasers was not given too small a point, they must have a supply of light. Of course, we have to deal with the fact that the waveguides are losing a ton of light, but displays 500 nits seem bright enough. Microsoft itself is hoping to make them a lot brighter in the final version, depending on the cost of power.
Want to see the hologram, not bothered much with the fit of your headset? And it’s just. The waveguide requires no special adjustment or measurement. You can simply put on a headset and starting work. It also may be far enough in front of your eyes, so you can wear your glasses.
Just, simpler, easier, Yes? But really, all this is damn hard. Microsoft had to create an entirely new system of etching for waveguides. I had to figure out how to direct the light to the desired location in the waveguides almost photon for photon. “We simulate every photon coming from the laser,” says Alam. The light from the laser is reflected not just: it is split into parts, a variety of colors, and then restored in the right places on the waveguides. “The motion of each photon is calculated and predetermined,” says Alam. It takes a huge amount of processing power, so Microsoft had to develop its own hardware.
Although aligning with a waveguide is much simpler, it does not mean that everything is perfect. That is why on the nose there are two tiny camera aimed at your eyeballs. They allow HoloLens 2 automatically measure the distance between your pupils and accordingly adjust the image. These cameras also allow HoloLens 2 to adjust the image vertically if it is tilted or if your eyes are not perfectly smooth. (And they are not smooth. Sorry).
One of the advantages of these cameras is that they can scan the retina in order to safely enter the HoloLens 2. In the end, they run on Windows and support Windows Hello. They also track where you look, allowing you to interact with users in new ways.
To the question: the power of the lasers, oscillating mirrors and special chips for all these calculations, obviously, eat a lot of battery. But Alam says that in spite of all this, it still requires less energy than the alternative. The mirrors oscillate in resonance, so you need less energy for their movement is a kind of the metronomes. Lasers also have less losses than the LEDs, and specialized stone can be optimized for a specific task.
“We are moving towards a form factor that truly is in the form of points, and all these steps are important in this journey.”
All of these technologies is impressive, but we should not overestimate the quality of the image. Now Microsoft shows is not yet the finished product. Around some holograms appear tiny ghosting, sometimes it jumps. Most of the features, based on scanners eyes to the bridge of the nose, are also not included. However, compared to the first HoloLens, this is not the 20 minute demo irritating. This is a really useful thing if you have the right software.
For workers, not consumers
HoloLens 2 is sold only to corporations, not consumers. They are designed for so-called “workers first-line”: people in auto shops, factories, operating in the field. They are designed for people who work with their hands and which is inconvenient to use a computer or smartphone in their daily work. Alex Kipman wants to replace spattered with paint, the Windows 2000 computer, standing in the corner of the room. About the same wanted to do, and Google Glass.
“If you think about the 7 billion people in the world, such as you and I are knowledge workers — will be in the minority,” says Kipman. For it workers, it may be possible to repair jet engines. Perhaps to sell something anywhere in the retail space. Perhaps it will be doctors that operate on you in the operating room.
It’s the people who, in a sense, had access to technologies that fit in the hand, because PCs, tablets and phones practically prevented in this work.
True. And this is entirely consistent with the new focus of Microsoft on meeting the corporate needs instead of trying to produce popular consumer products. Yes, it’s not as nice, but work more likely.
In addition, Chipman believes that HoloLens is not good enough to become a real product for the mass market consumer technologies. “This is the best, the highest that can be achieved in the field of mixed reality however I will tell you that it’s still not a consumer product,” he says.
Why? Because he’s not as immersed as you would like. In this parameter it is two times better than the previous version, but still not good enough to surprise the man in the street. And the price should fall at least below $ 1,000. The product is simply not yet ready for everyone.
Kipman, says that Microsoft has spent on advertising such products. It is not PR virtual reality. It is not PR augmented reality. And will not be energetically promoting mixed reality.
However, it is slightly stretching the truth — we saw a lot of custom applications for the HoloLens, including Minecraft. So the transition to the commercial market has definitely become a turnoff. But this twist fits into the larger corporate strategy, Microsoft. The fact that this product is not a consumer, does not mean that it is unimportant for the company.
Alex Kipman believes that we are entering a “third era of computing”. First came the PC with their open architecture, then came the phones with their closed shops applications, and now he hopes that mixed reality headset will return the pendulum back to openness, since Microsoft plans to open HoloLens. Headset works with Microsoft online services, but will work with others. Kipman says HoloLens and Azure “weakly tied, but was closely pressed”.
The main thing is that Microsoft believes that the combined reality will become something more. And it fitted perfectly in the concept of a “mirror world”, which tipped the future the third major platform.
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