June 27, 2017

Why HoloLens Is Not Kinect

Since HoloLens was accounced back in Jan 21st, many articles on the Internet have referred Kinect while reporting on HoloLens in various ways. Most of them tend to put a shade of skepticism over HoloLens from the comparison. In this post, I will try to give a little inside look at why this comparison comes so often and why it’s still invalid.

Sure, both HoloLens and Kinect use hand gesture for interaction, both use voice command for action control. Both are developed by the same group of people in Microsoft, and both happen to be amazing technology with no peer in the world. Indeed, HoloLens has a couple of Kinect sensors inside it, miniaturized of course. However, amazing technology doesn’t always lead to great consumer adoption. Despite great initial sales, Kinect’s momentum hasn’t been able sustained, which leads some people in the media draw comparison with HoloLens in the market department. I think people who draw comparison between the two are missing the point.

Kinect is a sensor, it does a lot of things, like body movement recognition, field depth mapping, etc., but it is still a sensor. HoloLens is a full featured computer, Kinect is just one of the its many sensors, but that’s not my point. HoloLens is a display device. As I have pointed out in another post, what distinguishes Hololens from anything else is its display technology. It breaks the traditional screen barrier: Contents are no longer contained in a fix-sized screen, not to mention its 3D holographic capability. But this is still not quite my point.

In essence, Kinect is an input device. HoloLens is a output device first, input device second. And that is my point. So, what does it mean? What difference does it make? Lets take a closer look (I know I have used this sentence too much, but I am not tired yet).

HoloLens Technology – 3D World Mapping

Kinect is not a great input device, neither is HoloLens. To understand this, please look at another post of mine: Natural User Interface: Is Natural Always Better? Sure, Natural User Interface (NUI) is great concept, however, no matter how we label it, in the presence of mouse, keyboard and game controller, every other ways of interactions look inferior, that includes hand gesture, voice, gaze and touch. Those NUIs are only valuable when you don’t have access to a mouse, keyboard or game controller, like the way you use a phone, a tablet on the go. Whenever you’re siting at a desk, a mouse is always the best way of human-computer interaction. I think every gamers or game developers agree with me that use gesture to play a hard core game is close to impossible. So, basically, Kinect is trying to use an inferior input method to replace great input methods. And we know the results.

HoloLens is an input device as is Kinect, but its main function is an output device: a display. It is its own display, it can also be a display for a PC, a display for Xbox. The key point here, it doesn’t exclude other input methods: mice, keyboards and game controllers. You can still use a PC the way you use it before, HoloLens just adds another great display. You can play games on Xbox the way you always do, with a game control in hand, the game can be streamed to a giant display on Hololens. Even you use HoloLens as a standalone machine, you can still use a physical keyboard, a mouse, or a game controller. What does it mean, really?

HoloLens Technology – Eye Tracking

It means every application that works on a PC should work with HoloLens, because you consider HoloLens as a mere display. Every Xbox games will be instantly available to HoloLens, I said every.

Yes, I heard your argument: Why do I use HoloLens only as a display? I buy HoloLens for 3D holograms. I believe there will be 3D holographic games, and 3D holographic applications. DirectX has been used for game development, I believe having those games appear as 3D holograms wouldn’t be a major problem, but my point is even without those 3D stuff, HoloLens gives you a giant display which is can be a huge boost to your PC or gaming experience.

In summary, Kinect is a input device, which is its weak point, in my opinion. HoloLens still has the same input device function, but it doesn’t exclude other input methods. HoloLens’ display is what makes it great: 3D or 2D.


PC + HoloLens: Would It Work?

Why HoloLens’ Most Remarkable Achievement Is Its Display

Xbox + HoloLens: How Can They Work Together?