March 23, 2019

Will There Be Low Cost HoloLens?

First of all, I don’t have any internal information or anything like that. This is speculation, but not totally based on nothing.

I know most of you think that I am writing too far ahead, given HoloLens is still nothing more than a few video demos. But if you are like me who have known this thing since its beginning, you would have no doubt that this HoloLens thing will come out in a matter of, say, 5 to 8 months. If we are talking about developer devices, two month from today, probably. “Are you kidding?”, you say. No, I am not kidding. Well, I have explained my logic in another post, it’s all up to you to decide if you believe it (don’t kill me if am wrong). But still, “what are you talking about, low cost HoloLens?” I think what I have in mind may be different from what you have in mind. Lets see.

 

HoloLens - Copy

 

When you search on Bing, this is what you get:

Microsoft HoloLens

The premier device for Windows Holographic, Microsoft HoloLens is a cordless, self-contained, head-mounted Windows 10 computer that uses advanced sensors, a high-definition 3D optical head-mounted display using holographic lenses, and spatial sound to allow for augmented reality applications, with a natural user interface that the user interacts with through gaze, voice, and hand gestures. Codenamed “Project Baraboo,” HoloLens had been in development for five years before its announcement in 2015, but was conceived earlier as the original pitch made in late 2007 for what would become the Kinect technology platform.

The first line says: HoloLens is the premier device for Windows Holographic. Here is what Wikipedia says about “Windows Holographic”:

Windows Holographic is an augmented reality computing platform by Microsoft that will be introduced in the Windows 10 operating system when it is released in 2015. With Windows Holographic APIs, which are enabled in all versions of Windows 10 (including Windows 10 for phones and small tablets), augmented reality features can be readily implemented on any Windows universal app, across a wide range of Windows 10 devices. Microsoft announced Windows Holographic at its “Windows 10: The Next Chapter” press event on January 21, 2015.

Also at the beginning it says: Windows Holographic is an augmented reality computing platform. I know they are not Microsoft’s content, but you can put great faith on its accuracy.

So Windows Holographic is bigger than HoloLens, the former is a platform, the later is a device (maybe series of devices, that’s not the point.). Microsoft’s strategy has always been building a platform, lets devs, OEMs, value-added distributors build a business around it.  So, it is natural for anyone to think that a platform is the real deal. HoloLens may just be part of the big picture. There is a good imitation with the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft set the standard, OEMs will do their variations. The difference is HoloLens has to blaze the trail this time. There are two reasons.

Windows Holographic is a new era in computing. There needs to have a premier device to jump start the industry. Much like IBM PC for personal computer. This device is called HoloLens.

The technology behind HoloLens is too technically demanding for ANY company on earth other than Microsoft to put a finger on it (there might be arguments to that, but I don’t think any of them valid, I have plenty research to say that). I think Microsoft will license the whole technology in package to second party OEMs, the way they plan to do with Microsoft Band.

Will Microsoft do what I said? Time will tell, but I think it’s very logical.

 

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (8) Holo-Movie

This is the 8th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-Movie

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

I read that people are making VR(virtual reality) movies, so it’s natural to think about making movies for HoloLens. There are two key differences between VR and HoloLens (called mixed reality): VR uses more traditional display technology, a projected image (or video) is rendered in front of eyes, spanning a wide angle. HoloLens, on the other hand, uses a new technology which beams lights directly into eyes. No real image are rendered outside of eyes. Therefore, the ways 3D effect is generated are different: VR uses traditional way that give left eye and right eye different images to make it appear 3D. HoloLens creates 3D effect by sending lights the way our eyes see the real world. The second difference is: VR tends to let user forget about the real world, therefore it blocks lights entirely from the outside. HoloLens still lets user see the real world, but adds virtual scene on top of it. However, what you see in the real world is customizable. This last one is an interesting point. If you are watching a movie on HoloLens, it will be more like in the theatre, 3D with surrounding sounds, but you are still aware that you are not in the movie.

My personal judgment is, for watching movies, HoloLens is generally preferred over VR. It’s more like play in the theme park. I have never tried the biggest rollercoaster, and never want to, just can’t handle the dizziness and I feel unhealthy doing this. I don’t know how many people feel the same, but certainly there are many people don’t agree. That said, those two are not like one or the other. There are overlaps, and they both will evolve. But the for the moment, I think HoloLens is more main stream, also more advanced in terms of technologies behind.

Now the question is how to make a movie for HoloLens. Without specifications, we can only guess. First of all, would current 3D movies appear 3D on HoloLens? I would be surprised if they don’t, but it is not automatic, it will require some preprocessing before the scenes goes to the light engine.

So, again there is a question I don’t have answer: Can we make movie dedicated for HoloLens viewing? Or is there a need to do so, knowing traditional 3D movie can be played on HoloLens? I think a HoloLens tailored movie can have advantages to make movie more realistic than 3D movies. Regular 3D movies look same watched from any angle.

In any case, with HoloLens, watching movie is more like theatre experience in terms of visuals, sounds, immersive-ness.

 

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (7) Holo-Escort

This is the 7th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-Escort

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

People usually refer escort service as one specially kind of service. Here escort is literally escort, in general term. When we talk about holographic technology, everything applies.

Imagine you are on a business trip for a week or two, or just feel lonely, need company. You put on the HoloLens, fire up ABC Escort app. You can have a holographic someone on your couch instantly. I know it’s not real, but it looks real. You can talk to her/him the way to talk to a friend. She may sing or dance to you, or dance with you, and she can certainly keep you from boredom.

For the businesses who provide this kind of service, you may need an app, real people’s 3D models, also there need to be a real person behind each model, for chatting to be possible. The app need some serious work, but if there is a generic app, things can get easier.

 

 

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

This is the 6th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-Online Store

Development Effort: 7/10
Business Value: 8/10
Wow Factor: 9/10

Retail industry is in tough business these days, blame the Internet for that. Some stores are still doing well, but retail as a whole is not looking too good. You know that from their quarterly reports for the last a couple of years. The trend is online stores are going up and physical stores are going down. Even though in the foreseeable future, majority of shopping are going to happen at the real stores. For many products, people need to touch and feel before buying, but there is an irreversible trend, people are given more and more reasons to shop online. Traditional retailers, like Sears, Best Buy, have their online stores too. However, as online stores, they are not as dominant as they are in physical stores. So, I personally think boosting online stores is strategically important for traditional retail businesses. With Hololens, online stores have an opportunity to revolutionized online shopping experience.

What online stores lack is: People don’t see the actual products. They only see a few images. With HoloLens and holographic interface, people can see the products almost like real ones. They can look at them from different angle. Maybe they can even try it out virtually. This is totally different shopping experience. It is fun too. I believe whoever do it first would get a lot of attention. It is not whether you should do it, it is whether you can do it early.

The implementation involves two main tasks:  do 3D scanning on every items you sell. I think HoloLens should do it when it is released by the end of the year, because if Kinect can do it, HoloLens can do it too. Clearly Microsoft have already done this with real people, it shouldn’t be too hard to do the same with other products. Task #2 is to write software and put those 3D items in. There two ways to do that.

1. Do it as a web application. This can be done as an ActiveX control because script language are not allowed to access Windows 10 holographic APIs.

2. As an Windows 10 App, which can run on HoloLens. This is preferred way to implement it.

 

Some Business Ideas with HoloLens – (5) Holo-Tutor

This is the 5th in a series of “Some Business Ideas with HoloLens”. Read other posts here.

HoloLens - Copy

 

Holo-Tutor

Development Effort: 2/10
Business Value: 7/10
Wow Factor: 8/10

The word “tutor” is used loosely here. Not just someone helps to improve your performance in school, that can be many kinds of teacher who teaches piano, art, dance, cooking, etc. Again, Skype with holographic function is used in the session, with the teacher and the student both on a HoloLens (this is different from other examples that uses Skype call. I will show you why.), so the teacher and the student see each other’s piano (taking piano for example), hand position. The teacher can annotate on the student instrument to give precise instructions.

I have personally tried piano lesson on Skype, the current Skype without holographic. It turns out very hard to do, at very least, the experience far away from in person lessons. Three problems: 1. It’s hard to set up the camera to see each others instrument and hands, even with external camera. 2. It’s hard to setup a situation where your eyes can switch between piano and the computer screen easily. 3. Most of times, it’s just impossible to follow instructions by watching the other person. Now lets see how HoloLens and holographic enhanced Skype solve these problems.

Because both sides are on HoloLens, camera position problem is solved instantly. Also HoloLens allows to see your piano and the other one’s piano at the same time, problem #2 is gone too. HoloLens also allows the teacher to draw on the student’s piano, the student then see the drawing appear on his own piano. It’s a lot easier for the student to understand and follow.

Piano lesson is a good example of using HoloLens in tutoring, but the same thing applies to many other instruments, and things other than music. Art lesson is another interesting example, I will leave details to you.

 

 

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

aaa             caa

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.