November 19, 2018

From HoloLens to “True” Hologram: How?

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I know readers have one question in their minds: Are you qualified to talked about hologram? I want to set this clear first. I do have a engineering and computer science background, and computer 3D Imaging is not awfully strange to me. I did research of course. Also, I want to remind everyone, the science behind hologram is very basic: geometrical optics and physical optics, we all have learned in high school. If that’s not enough, if you have attended any science or engineering related programs in college, you must have seen holograms in you physics labs.

Some Important Information About HoloLens

In this post, I want to answer one silly question: Is what you see through HoloLens true hologram? The answer is YES. There is no argument. Many people, including those who knows the technology very well, have said HoloLens is not true hologram, and it shouldn’t be called hologram. Their reason is: You have to wear a HMD (Head Mounted Display) visor to see it. They are expecting you see holograms up in the air, with no lens, no support what so ever. I have to tell you, this is physically impossible.

Lets start with the basics. The reason we see anything is because the lights beam into our eyes, making an image on our retinas, then it send electrified signals through visual nerve cords to the brain. Lets not talk about implanting anything behind retinas, I am not sure if I want to talk about it, unless I am blind. But anyway,  in order for our eyes to see anything, there must be light coming from somewhere, coming in proper angle so our eyes can conceive what we see as certain object, from certain distance. Unless there is something in the air that can bend the light the way we want it, there is no hologram in the air. This, something that bends lights but is invisible, doesn’t exist in the physics that we know. So, what about the hologram we saw in the physics lab? First of all, that little statue or something is generated by a few devices in front of your eyes. And second of all, you normally look at it through a lens.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (6) Holo-Online Store

Some say, wait a minute, I have seen large scale holograms they appear in the air. That’s what I am going to talk about: an extension of HoloLens. Right now, the lens in HoloLens is very close to your eyes, about 1 cm maybe. Now, lets move the lens (and the light engine, everything) 5 meters, even 50 meters away from your eyes, which become about 3m x 3m or 30m x 30m in size (the lens has to scale up when move far away if you want to keep the same field of view). Now you have turned the room into a huge HoloLens. When you step into the room, you are like wearing a HoloLens. Eye tracking technology will detect your eyes and send lights to them. If you have seen a real hologram like that, the technology is approximately the same.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (10) Holo-TicketMaster

So, here are your choices: A room sized HoloLens you walk in or a HMD sized HoloLens you wear on. What you said a true hologram is probably the former (maybe under a variation of the same technology). But for the vast majority of use cases, the later is the choice.

There isn’t a third choice, by law of physics.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (8) Holo-Movie
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (7) Holo-Escort
Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (6) Holo-Online Store
 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (11) Holo-Concert

This is the 11th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-Concert

Development Effort: 8/10
Business Value: 8/10
Wow Factor: 9.5/10

I have to admit: among all of the idea about HoloLens, I am interested in the concert idea the most. I am a fun of classical music. Itzhak Perlman, Yo-yo Ma…. I can listen to Brandenburg Concerto again and again. I don’t know one song from Michal Jackson, or Madonna, I do enjoy some Beatle songs and some contemporary pop and rock music. But taste aside, the idea of watching live concert in you living room is very very tempting. That’s not to say attending a real concert is not great. Being there, see and smell what is happening in the concert is not something you can do virtually. However, if you don’t want to beat the traffic, experience the weather, or just want to stay cozy, watching it virtually from home is about the second best thing you can do.

So the concert is holographically streamed live from, say, Lincoln Center, you are at home. Put on your HoloLens, start Holo-Cencert App, choose Lincoln Center. Then you are in the concert. What you hear, you see is totally like you are there live, because it is holographically streamed to you. Wouldn’t that be great?

Now question: why would the concert wants to stream it? We have the Internet, we don’t see live concert is streamed, with some exceptions. That’s because the experience is not up to the quality to ask you to pay.  If the experience can be close to how you watch in the concert, you would be willing to pay to watch it from home. The concert will do whatever to make money.

To make this happen, there needs to be a open platform, like the ticketmaster, which releases a common app. Every concert can sign up and setup their shows for streaming. The app provides means to show 3D holographic video, and the concert goer needs devices to capture the performance in holographic format. I don’t have enough technical information on stream a live concert in 3D, so can’t tell if that’s possible right after HoloLens release. Also, internet connection bandwidth required for this can be much higher than regular video. So, I will leave the timing open.

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (10) Holo-TicketMaster

This is the 10th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-TicketMaster

Development Effort: 6/10
Business Value: 7/10
Wow Factor: 9/10

Ticketmaster.com is a popular ticket booking service. Being concerts, stage performance, all major sports events, even your children’s dance recital tickets are sold on ticketmaster.com. The main reason for its popularity is: It is the biggest of the kind. It sells every kinds of tickets. It is more comparable to amazon.com, because it is an open platform, every sellers can put their products (ticket in this case) on it for sale. Ticketmaster charge the commission. It’s like a huge/unlimited mall, only operates online.

For high profile concert like Yo-yo Ma in Carnegie Hall, or Katy Perry in… anywhere, or Disney On Ice, people only want to know when and where. For others, some sort of promotion would help people making the decision.  This is where HoloLens fits in.

In ticketmaster, when people clicked your concert, currently the main page shows seating charts. You can select seats on the chart. What if this is replaced with a holographic interface. Imagine people sit on the couch at home and see the lighted up stage in 3D, feel like in the concert live, while a short promo piece of the concert is going live on stage. People can even try out different seatings to see if that worth the money.

This is a three way collaboration: Ticketmaster provide the app, which is not a lot of work. The venue provides seating info, which is essentially scanning of seats in 3D, then upload to ticketmaster.com. It can be used forever until seating changes. And lastly, the show itself should provide a short trailer of live performance on stage. This can then be uploaded to ticket master.

What about watching live concert on your couch, instead of driving downtown, fighting the traffic? Next up is another post: Holo-Convert, stay tuned.

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (9) Holo-Hotel Reservation

This is the 9th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-Hotel Reservation

Development Effort: 5/10
Business Value: 8/10
Wow Factor: 9/10

You can go to travelociy.com to book a hotel, or hilton.com if you want to stay in the Hilton. I am sure they have apps to do the same thing. You read about the rooms, check picture of the rooms. Some even have virutal tours. With HoloLens technology, you can see better before you make a decision.

Say the Hilton is releasing a holographic app. They put their typical rooms in 3D form. When you start the app from HoloLens, you can see the room, room amenities, hotel amenities, surroundings up close. The booking experience would be much different. It’s a great way for hotels to win over potential customers.

The implementation can be straight forward, because this is mostly presentation, there is no need to detect user’s room objects. Major work is to scan a few hotel rooms, and other hotel facilities in 3D. It’s mostly one time work.

There are many variations of the Holo-Reservation: Restaurants, travel agencies, theme parks, casinos, etc. I will leave ticket booking for another post.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (4) Holo-Repair and Holo-AAA

This is the 4th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens

 

Holo-Repair

Development Effort: 2/10
Business Value: 9/10
Wow Factor: 8/10

This one is sort of redundant: For one, Microsoft’s promo video has already showed a repair example. For another, my last post was Holo-Support, which is very similar in many things. I put this up here anyways, just for completeness. Also, there is a major difference between support (or customer service) and repair in this context. The former is normally a part of a business, the later is usually the entire business. To the business operation, the later is more significant than the former. In term of how HoloLens is used, they are essentially the same: the customer is on HoloLens, connecting to the company call center by a Skye call, who ever starts it.

There are many kind of repairing businesses, being automobile, plumbing, electricity/electronics, computer, home appliance, heating, roofing, etc. The way HoloLens can help the business is: The communication in the form of holographic Skype call gives the technicians a chance to look at the problem in real time. For example, if your car is not functioning, the technician can read the dashboard, look at everything that can be suspicious. This can give the customer hand-on-hand instruction to figure out what the problem is. If problem is fixed during this process, then the customer wouldn’t need to bring the item in to the shop. Even problem can’t be fixed by this, the technician gets a good idea where to look at when the item is brought in to the shop. The end result? There is much better chance the customer will pay less (technician drive in or the item brought to the shop), and same with waiting time. For the business, it means serving more customers a day.

Again, for the business, only thing needed is a Skype account, and computers, which you already have.

 

Holo-AAA

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Development Effort: 2/10
Business Value: 9/10
Wow Factor: 8/10

Much related to the idea of Holo-Repair, the America Automobile Association (AAA, or CAA in Canada) can do the same thing with holographic Skype with HoloLens. Again, AAA don’t need to invest in HoloLens, only a Skype account is needed. The AAA members who have trouble on the road though need a HoloLens in the car.

At the current setup, when you call in from the phone, the call is handled in the AAA’s call centers. The AAA call center people are not experts in automobiles, but they know them good enough to suggest you try something that they feel confident with. Also the HoloLens can read the car status from the dashboard, maybe more, along with your precise location, and traffic conditions around you. So before they sent a tow truck, with probably oil, booster cables, battery, they have this information on hand. This leads to two things, shortened waiting time, targeted services. Best of all, AAA or CAA don’t need to spend more money.

There is technical thing to be warned. Currently there is no information about 3G/4G support on the HoloLens. If it doesn’t at the initial release, you are going to have to use your smartphone to tether the Internet connection for the call to be possible.

If you are driving, put a HoloLens in the car might be a good idea, just don’t wear it while driving.

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (3) Holo-Support

This is the third in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read others posts here.

HoloLens

 

Holo-Support

Development Effort: 2/10
Business Value: 9/10
Wow Factor: 8/10

Technical support (or customer service) is a broad thing. Businesses, small or large, have support as part of the business. Large firms have support departments. Needless to say, support is a big reason for the success or failure of a business. Generally, tech support operates in this fashion: Customers call in and the call is forward to a tech support representative. The support person idenfy the problem characteristics, he then either try to solve it on the phone, or make replacement order, or send to support person to the customer’s place. However, if the customer has a HoloLens on head. The support person can make a Skype call to the customer, Just like what appeard in the HoloLens promo video. The support agent can see what the customer sees live. On one hand, the support agent can get a better understanding what the problem is. On the other, he can give detailed instruction on what to do. The result is reduced time spent in diagnostic, higher customer satisfaction rate, and cost saving for the company.

The implementation can be effortless, just a regular Skype call. But as we have seen in the video mentioned above, the support person can do annotation (draw some arrows) on the customer’s side. This would require some annotation support from Skype. I am here to assume this function will be available in Skype when Windows 10 is available later this year (if the function is not already in Skype, I am not familiar with Skype). For the business, only thing need to do is to have a Skype account, that’s about all it takes.

I just want to repeat the benefit of this: cost reduction and higher Customer Satisfaction. The end results can be more exciting than the plain words. Furthermore, this is achieved without much change in the business, it’s almost zero investment. Is there any training required? Minimal, less than training someone to use a phone.

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens: (2) Holo-Architect

This is the second in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read others posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

Holo-Architect

Development Effort: 4/10

Business Value: 7/10

Wow Factor: 8/10

Architects, especially the ones who design commercial buildings, usually need to enter a biding process to have their designs selected. Apart from the design competence, brand name, etc., how you present your design work to your client plays an important role in deciding your success. Today’s architect companies spend a lot of time to visualize their designs. Artists impression drawing, in different day lights, night lights, with/without surroundings. They routinely present 3D models as well. But what if they bring a few HoloLens to the presentation, have everyone in the room put them on, your clients immediately see your designs and the surrounding building showing in 3D. People can easily see them from different angles, discuss what its like if you change the shapes, colors a little bit. This is far more immersive than your regular 3D models. In addition to that, a lot more information can be presented in the form of call-out windows, when people put fingers on. Audio and music can be good additions too.

For a regular architect firm, things like that would usually be out sourced to software developers. The 3D models and rendering effects should be a already there though. Software like that is not very difficult. If there is a generic app for that, the cost should even lower.

This probably won’t change your business entirely, but it does add wow factor to your design. Especially if anyone else is doing it, you would have to.

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens: (1) Holo-IKEA

Since the HoloLens was announced at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event two week ago, I have been reading some articles and many enthusiastic discussions about the limitless potential uses for HoloLens. Some are well thought out ideas, some are more of fascinations. People are intrigued by what it could bring the world of business, entertainment, gaming, even daily life. But most of them haven’t gone through careful thinking, in term of market acceptance, technical difficulty, effort to implement, and things as such. I am mainly a software developer, with an engineering background, and some weak business management experience, thought though I could put some of the ideas into my brain for a spin, hope the result can be helpful for readers who are interested. Many ideas are inspired by online discussion. Some of them are my own. I don’t take ownership to any of them. To be sure, this is just a tiny set of what is possible. However, you can go wild starting from this.

I give each idea a rank in the following areas: Development Effort, Business Value, Wow Factor, in scale of 1 to 10. Because Windows 10 holographic APIs are not available yet, there are many things unknown, but based on what is already known, it not hard to take a good assumption of what will come.

This is the first in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read others posts here.

HoloLens

 

Holo-IKEA:

Development Effort: 4

Business Value: 8

Wow Factor: 8

IKEA is the first thing come to mind after watching the HoloLens promo video. I have found many people echoed this idea (they were probably thinking about it before I do). The reason for that is: 1. IKEA is not just a retailer, they design, they make and they sell. They probably already have the 3D models of each product they sell. Even they don’t, create them or just scan them using HoloLens wouldn’t be so much more work if they design each piece they sell. 2. IKEA products are mostly straight lined, box-like, which are easy to 3D-model, and require little physics, except for mattresses. In holographic applications, dealing with physics (weight, stiffness, flexibility, elasticity) are usually harder than dealing with geometry.

The idea is for IKEA to release an holographic app to Windows Store. The app will contain all IKEA products, organized in categories. People put on their HoloLens at home, fire up Holo-IKEA app. They can choose a product, say, a dresser, then put it anywhere in the room, because the app has the geometric information of both the room and the dresser. User can instantly see if the furniture of choice fits in the space, and if the style and color matches what they already have. Better yet, they can virtually move the real furniture around to fit the virtual one (this requires some coding work, but can be done). And they can do the order from the app.

Development effort is relatively low for IKEA, main reason is they design their products they sell. Software side of work is relatively straight forward. It does require the room’s geometry info but just basic API calls as expected. Ordering and transaction processing would be the main work, but if in app payment is possible then the work minimized.

No matter IKEA is an pure retailer or not, IKEA is in retail business. As we have seen, retailers are facing competition from online businesses. IKEA is probably in good business right now, but no one can ignore the changes the online business has brought to the retail. I think IKEA should give this idea a serious run through if they believe HoloLens will have any impact on their business.

In retail business, IKEA is just an obvious example, many others in the business can certainly come with similar idea. Home Depot comes to mind. What is different with Home Depot is that they sell products made by others, to have all products 3D modeled is simply impossible. Maybe 3D scanning with HoloLens would work, but still, they may have to choose a selected set of products that are easily to deal with holograhically, and have obvious use cases, like tiles, flooring products, etc.

 

Some Important Information About HoloLens

I have collected some info bits about HoloLens that people desperately want to know. Even though the pieces are already on the Internet, most people including journalists don’t know where to look at.

Microsoft-HoloLens

 

  • HoloLens is to be released toward the end of this year (2015). See ref2.
  • HoloLens will “weigh about 400 grams, or about the same as a high-end bike helmet” at release. See ref2.
  • HoloLens contains a Kinect camera(120×120 degree FOV depth sensor), a computer (a Cherry Trail CPU – see ref3, a GPU, a HPU – see ref4), a light engine, lens and vent.
  • HoloLens is a stand alone PC that runs on Windows 10.
  • HoloLens development kits (likely prerelease devices)  will be delivered to developers in early spring. See ref1,2.
  • NASA will use HoloLens for Mars missions starts July 2015. See ref5.
  • HoloLens has only three buttons: one for sound volume, one for adjust contract, one for power.

 

References:

1. Wired 1

2. Wired 2

3. PCWorld 

4. Wikipedia

5. Mashable

HoloLens: Release Date (Updated)

This is the second in a series of HoloLens thoughts. This time talk about release date.microsoft-hololens

Again, just like the price, this is an educated guess. A guess I feel good about, and you should too. I draw lines based on information that is publicly available (even some that people don’t pay attention to). Those lines are apparently solid enough for me to share with you. So, here we go.

Microsoft had publicly said, HoloLens will be available in the Windows 10 time frame. What does that mean to us? Not a lot. As many have said, this means it could be ready for sale anytime during Windows 10’s life time. Theoretically, yes, in realty NO. The correct interpretation is “HoloLens will likely be on retail shelves at the time of Windows 10 release, which is then likely Aug. ~ Oct. 2015; or a little later, like Christmas, 2015″.

HoloLens Misconception – 3D

As most of us who pay attention to Microsoft’s development know, technologies around HoloLens had started in development at least 7 years ago. If at this point of time, Microsoft announce it and wait a year later to put it on the market, allow everyone to learn and steal the technology, that’s very unlikely for obvious reasons.  And further, I just can’t find a reason that they can hold the technology for 7 years, then they can’t hold it up a year more?

To put things together, I am confident this thing will be ready for sale on or before this holiday season. Just in case you are still wondering: this is still almost year between announcement and availability. The only explanation is they treat this as a platform not just a device. To get developers on board, they have to release the holographic APIs, emulators, and probably development devices to the developers in April. I am afraid we will get more information at BUILD in April.

HoloLens: Price Estimation

– Update: Wired  had already got the release time, which is “By the time Project HoloLens comes to market toward the end of this year…”. So, my guess was pretty good.

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

 

 

HoloLens: Price Estimation

hololens-1

Right after HoloLens was announced during Microsoft’s Windows 10 event on January 21st, I sent a link of the promo video to a friend. This is his reply:

Holy shit! When will it be available? How much does this thing cost?

Well, “When will it be available?” is another question in the state of emergency, but I will address it in another post. “How much does the thing cost?” is the question I am trying to answer here. It deserves a post because there is just too much interest. However, I can sense your skepticism already. How do you know? Fact is I don’t, since no one does, but I am here to promise you a better estimation than whatever you see on the Internet. An estimation that is actually useful.

Here is what I am going to do. I put clues together, and draw a line indirectly from those clues. I feel pretty good about the result, and you should too.

Here is what we know: HoloLens is a stand alone device with a CPU, a GPU, a HPU (Hologram Process Unit), runs Windows 10. The CPU is using Intel Atom chip (Cherry Tail) according to PCWorld. HoloLens has Kinect sensor, surround sound. There is sophisticated light engine to generate, modulate and beam lights into eyes. We know a stand alone Kinect selling for about $200. A Cherry Trail system can be built for around $200, including CPU, GPU and motherboard (or SOC). HPU and light system are unknown, lets allocate $300~500 raw cost, so I will be on a certain level of confidence. These add up to about $700~$900.

Microsoft also indicate HoloLens will be priced for businesses and consumers. Also a key piece of information, from multiple people in Microsoft publicly, “HoloLens is a platform, is the next PC”. What I get from these two pieces of information is: it has to be priced low enough for mass adoption. $800 is certainly not a lot of money considering what it promises, and it is a PC for itself.

All above being said, this is just an estimation, it can go as low as $500, and as high as a little over $1000. I can’t imagine beyond that.

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