October 19, 2017

Why HoloLens’ Most Remarkable Achievement Is Its Display

 

mr3
There are a few things that separate HoloLens from other AR/VR devices: Magic Leap, Sony Morpheus, HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift to name a few. The Kinect gesture recognition and 3D world mapping are far and away the best in class. Kinect has been in market for a few years. It has been improved in size and response time, especially coupling with HPU in HoloLens. People who have tried the new implementation on HoloLens are generally impressed. More Importantly, HoloLens is built on top of Windows Holographic platform, which will be available on all Windows 10 devices. There is a huge advantage with an established platform, I will get to that in another post. In this post, I’m talking about another technology in HoloLens that makes it stand out from the others: the display technology.

Yes, I am aware that we haven’t seen the product yet, and we don’t even know what is behind the display technology in HoloLens. I think it doesn’t really make a different whether we have seen the final result or not, I believe the final product can only be better. As to the technology details, we may never know even with a product in hand, but it doesn’t matter, I have enough information to say things that I am sure of.

HoloLens: Price Estimation

Display Technology: HoloLens and VR

First, I want to compare HoloLens’ display with the VR displays from Sony or Oculus. Almost all VR displays are using the same technology, with some variation of course. There is a rectangular screen in front of viewer’s eyes, LED or LCD. It displays high resolution images on the screen. Between the screen and viewer’s eyes, there are a pair of glass to make it feel like viewing from a distance. Because the viewer’s eyes are totally covered, there is a feeling that you are separated from the world, immersed into the virtual world. Immersive-ness is something that VR vendors are tooting all along. Unfortunately, in my opinion, immersive-ness has very little to do with its display technology itself. It has, however, a lot to do with the fact that the viewer’s eyes are entirely covered, which by itself is not much of a technology to talk about. If there is something to the VR technology is that it appears to have an impressive field of view, but I am not sure how much a difference between the two. Also the 3D effect from VR is far less realistic than the holographic 3D from HoloLens. With holographic 3D, you can move you head to see an object in different angle. With stereoscopic 3D, no matter what angle you look at the same object, you see the same image. Look at the picture above, with HoloLens it’s hard to tell which object on the table is real, which one is virtual.

The major gripe I have with VR headsets is how they look. I know they are not meant to be worn walking around, but wearing a box is too alien-ish to me. I am not talking about the bulkiness, which can be improved over time, but in its finest and smallest form possible, I still don’t see how it can look good. Sony’s headset is probably the best looking one. Lets make it 2 times thinner, would you say it looks fine? The problem lies here: 1. It has to have a distance from the eyes. 2. It needs a big field of view. That’ why it has to have this size, it can’t be much smaller. Because of technology difference, with AR, like HoloLens, the lens can be much closer to the eyes.

HoloLens: Release Date (Updated)

Display Technology: HoloLens and AR

Now, lets look at other AR display technologies. Microsoft calls its HoloLens mixed reality, but it is actually more AR than VR. When field of view is improved, it will eventually cover entire spectrum from AR to VR. First of all, in AR field no one else has a published demo yet. So we have no idea how good they are. One thing I know: They are all based on a variation of one technology, that is sending light directly to the eyes, whatever that is called (some call it Light Field). Another thing I know: This technology is very hard. Microsoft has worked on this for at least 4 years as far as I know(maybe longer), with many top scientists in the field, and spent tons of money to have demo units as some have seen in January. I have a feeling that this is not something everyone can fondle with, which explain why non of those other AR companies have a demo, or remote releasing date yet.

Some Important Information About HoloLens

The Big Picture

There is a bigger problem in AR and VR together other than technology: the platform problem. I will talk about that later.

Update: Phil Spencer, head of games in Microsoft, has just said in an interview that the technology under HoloLen is more challenging than VR.

In the holographic mixed-reality space, there are fewer players. In some ways, it’s a little more technically challenging — not to take away from any of the challenges of VR.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens: (1) Holo-IKEA
What Is Mixed Reality, Really?
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (4) Holo-Repair and Holo-AAA
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (3) Holo-Support
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens: (2) Holo-Architect