August 19, 2017

HoloLens – The Matter of FOV

 

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Reports have come out from BUILD conference focusing on concerns over HoloLens’ FOV (Field of View, or Field of Vision). I first got the message from social media, and I was in shock at first. For a moment, I thought it was the same crowd who complained about FOV when HoloLens was first announced. I understand those who complained usually based their opinion on comparison to VR head sets. There weren’t a concern because they are different technology, and targeting different use cases. Then I read a number of post online, from the same people who were shown the demo last time. I have even checked with friends. I am convinced that there is an issue to deal with, big or small.

Regarding FOV, the feelings are universal, and almost identical: it’s just too small this time around. I looked back at their previous posts, the opinion toward HoloLens FOV are mostly favorable. Most of them felt it’s not great but fine. Of course, bigger would be better.  It has never become a barrier for a great user experience. Honestly, after I have written the post “Analysis of HoloLens FOV“, I have never considered this a problem.

Many people I have read online are surprised. No one had expected this. It is certainly not because the technology is not capable, we have seen how it worked. It should get better over time not the other way around. Now many have realized the setup in two cases are different: First time they were strapped with a laptop. This time it was on a less powerful Atom CherryTrail PC, according to report. Based on that, it can be one of 3 things: 1. The light engine (generating and projecting lights) component has changed to fit in the small chassis. 2. The light engine is the same, but less powerful CPU to power it up, which limits the among of lights it can process. 3. The GPU that takes care of creating the initial image, though that image is never rendered. I am no expert, but if have to take a guess, I tend to think #3 is less likely, because the GPU does the same thing as it does on any other PC. Generally speaking, today’s GPU has no problem dealing with 1080p videos. I think #2 is most likely.

I know there must be difficult decisions behind the scene, but what makes it hard to believe is they (Microsoft) appear to take chance to see how people react. There is strong evidence of that: 1. Obviously, they don’t just find this out today. They must have known it long before today. 2. They have marketing people ask your expectation when you come in, then ask again afterwards. They are testing water. That shouldn’t have happened. If it is really like what people have wrote today, that’s too obvious, there is no need to test water like that. It’s a dangerous act they shouldn’t ever tried.  At least, it damps enthusiasm among everyone who are watching the development. The impact can be more than that.

In any case, I would expect an explanation coming out in any form. People need to be convinced there is a fix. Related question is: how would that affect the  release date. One thing is almost certain: HoloLens can not be released in this state. The reason is obvious.

The positive side is we knew it worked.