October 22, 2017

HoloLens Misconception – 3D

There are some misconceptions about HoloLens on the Internet. Here I am trying to clear it up, basically because I feel propelled to do so.

This post is about 3D. Questions like how HoloLens’ 3D compares to other AR/VR systems, and whether HoloLens is about 3D at all deserve some analysis and explanation. I feel people often get them wrong.

Yesterday (Feb 24/2015) Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz did a AMA on Reddit, When it comes across question like this one:

How would you compare Magic Leap’s product to what Microsoft announced with Hololens?

Rony replied by saying,

There are a class of devices (see-through and non-see-through) called stereoscopic 3D. We at Magic Leap believe these inputs into the eye-brain system are incorrect – and can cause a spectrum of temporary and/or permanent neurologic deficits.

At Magic Leap we created a digital light-field signal technology that respects the biology of the human eye-brain system in a profound and safe way – and the experience is awesome – and unlike anything you have ever seen before (except for the real world) :-)

He didn’t specifically say HoloLens, but gave a sort of blanket answer about stereoscopic 3D. Naturally, everyone would think he actually assumed HoloLens is using stereoscopic 3D. We know that Oculus VR headsets uses stereoscopic 3D.

What Is Mixed Reality, Really?

Stereoscopic 3D is a widely used 3D display technology. Most of 3D systems, like 3D TV, 3D movie we see use stereoscopic 3D. Oculus Rift, and I am pretty sure Sony Project Morpheus too are using stereoscopic 3D display. It basically displays two versions of same image at same time and makes sure two eyes see different versions. That way it makes you feel it is 3D.

Most VR systems tend to use stereoscopic 3D, there is a screen in front of your eyes. AR system can opt to use see-through stereoscopic 3D to apply virtual images to real world lights, but from what we know, most of AR system (CastAR, Magic Leap, Sony’s SmartEyeGlasses) uses a entirely different technology. There isn’t a definitive name, but all of them tend to generate lights and apply them to the natural lights from real world, then project the results to the eyes.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (15) Holo-Rock Star

Microsoft haven’t said what 3D technology is behind HoloLens. In any case, lets take closer look the technology behind HoloLens based on what we know. I would direct readers to following too articles from Wired Magazine: article1, article2. These have become my bible about HoloLens. Here I quote the chief inventor Alex Kipman, just so we can better understand the display technology:

To create Project HoloLens’ images, light particles bounce around millions of times in the so-called light engine of the device. Then the photons enter the goggles’ two lenses, where they ricochet between layers of blue, green and red glass before they reach the back of your eye. “When you get the light to be at the exact angle,” Kipman tells me, “that’s where all the magic comes in.”

I could also quote Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s former Chief Strategy Officer’s comment, in march 2011, but I will leave it for another post. Based on all these, it’s almost certain that HoloLens is not using stereoscopic 3D. There isn’t a place where the stereoscopic image is rendered outside the eyes.

Now, I have answered the first question. The second one is: Is HoloLens about 3D? This is a frequent misconception about HoloLens. Everywhere I read about HoloLens, I got the impression that HoloLens’ main objective is generating 3D images.

HoloLens: Price Estimation

First, HoloLens has a holographic display, which is distinctly different from stereoscopic 3D, it contains more information than stereoscopic 3D. From the user’s point view, it is more realistic.

Second, the objective of HoloLens is to allow users manipulating digital world in analogical way. What is shown can be 3D or 2D,  that doesn’t matter. What matters is the digital world is merged into your real world, and you are not only seeing it as part of your real world, but interacting with it the way you interact with real world. I want to invite everyone to watch the HoloLens promo video again, see you can get what I am saying. The examples shown in the video includes 3Ds: Minecraft, Design, Mars, 2D: the plumer, Netflix. I want readers to get a sense that HoloLens is not about 3D, or 2D for that matter.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens: (2) Holo-Architect
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens: (1) Holo-IKEA
Some Important Information About HoloLens

  • ZiglioNZ

    Very good points here, thank you. The claim that stereo 3D can cause permanent neurological damage is unfounded. I’ve never heard a single instance of that and 3D movies have been propular in theatres in recent years. Quite the opposite: there has been at least one case of a man developing stereo vision after watching Hugo in 3D. Anyway, what I think these devices are using is a new generation of approximate “ray tracing”. We’ve seen Imagination Technologies adding some simplifies ray tracers in their recent GPUs, something that’s never been available in real time until now. That would make all the difference because suddenly objects would appear solid and realistic and immersed into our world. The fact that HoloLens keeps them at 2m distance could indeed mean that they’re not using stereo images, so the models would start appearing flat at close distance. I’m just speculating.