HoloLens: A Major Disruption In Computing Is Upon Us
By Charlie Fink
I am a believer. The HoloLens is a game changing device that will alter the technology landscape in ways we can’t even imagine. It represents one of biggest disruptions in computing since the smart phone. It may replace the computer monitor.
It’s not science fiction anymore.
Apparently anyone can walk into a Microsoft Store and experience this.
I found out about the HoloLens CES demo almost by accident. In the corner of the big ballroom where vendors gave the press a preview last Tuesday night, I met Bob Sopko, the partnership manager for Case Western Reserve University’s Innovation Lab. There was nothing in his small, out of the way booth in the corner of the big room except for a banner and a couple of students. “You should see our anatomy demo on the HoloLens,” he said, “and also we’re going to have the Cavaliers Basketball Trophy Friday afternoon.” He spoke about the trophy with such reverence that I decided I’d visit Case Western’s booth after its holy appearance. I should not have waited. I should not have prioritized Vive and PlaystationVR. In fact, the Case Western Reserve demo erased every other memory of CES.
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The HoloLens has changed the way I look at everything in the VR/AR ecosystem. I’m not making an overstatement: the HoloLens is going to change the world.
Use of the HoloLens in business and education will evangelize it’s value at home.
The Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s first fully untethered holographic computer. It weighs just 579 grams (1.3 lbs) and fits comfortably on the head, leaving plenty of room for eyewear. The screen: A tiny, semi-transparent window, floats in front of you. The HoloLens is completely wireless and can be networked with other headsets around you, or even users elsewhere. And you could easily wear it all day, every day.
The Microsoft HoloLens retails for $3,000. About the same price as a good personal computer in 1992. (Editor’s Note: The developer’s edition of the HoloLens is $3000 w/o a warranty. The enterprise edition for $5000 comes with a warranty.)
When the demo starts, the box floating in front of me is transformed into a window through which I saw a fully three dimensional, semi-transparent hologram, floating in space. I walked around it, crawled under it, and watched Robert Gotschall, one of the Case engineers who developed the applications, move and scale it with his fingers, no glove or controller needed.
Outside of the demo it looks like they are pinching and pointing at thin air.
The Medical and Astronomy Apps
Gotschall looked rather absurd as I waited my turn, pinching and pointing into the air to manipulate the hologram, shared by all the participants. When it was my turn, it made perfect sense. A life size body appeared in front of me. Gotschall expertly expanded the body into its component parts, the organs, the circulatory system and the nervous system. A medical student would theoretically no longer need a cadaver to see how the organs are layered together. Stick your head into the heart or the brain, and the hologram expands to show you the view inside. It’s also possible to network remote HoloLens users into the demo too.
This is exactly what I saw.
The astronomy application was equally impressive. The detail of it is breathtaking. The physics are stunningly accurate. You see the sun, the planets, and the stars spinning accurately as they do with their moons, rotating around the sun. The planetarium is obsolete. The HoloLens will transform education.
Can the Vive survive the HoloLens?
Other AR Devices Are Mere Toys
I have praised other demonstrations of VR and AR technology at the show, and many show great promise for architecture and design. I also experienced the human body using the Vive. It was an excellent, though solitary experience, with similar features to the Case Western Reserve demo, exploring the circulatory system, etc. But I had to use my controller to move around, and the image was less than crystal clear, as I saw it through the visible pixels of the headset’s optical system. The truth is: You really can’t compare them.
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But…The Game May Change Again, and Very Soon
The HoloLens uses patents from ODG (Osterhout Design Group), which raised $58M to produce its own headset, the R8. Built on the new Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the R8 will produce super high definition 2K 3D quality images, and will be able to run apps already developed for android smartphones.
The ODG R8 doesn’t have some of the coolest features of the HoloLens, but at one third the price, it doesn’t need to.
Charlie Fink is an executive, writer and consultant with over three decades of experience in media, technology and the intersection between them. As an avid storyteller, entrepreneur, and award winning producer, Charlie has built a career building businesses across industries. With his tenure as an executive in companies such as Disney, Virtual World, and AOL, Charlie has honed an extensive knowledge and expertise.