Microsoft have been busy. And yesterday night they announce what they had been working on, with a new Hololens device and a cloud powered reprise of an old favourite.
The new HoloLens looks lovely. It is apparently more comfortable with the processing power (which is completely contained in the device itself) at the back of the device to improve balance. It also has a neat “flip up” mechanic that makes it easy to get out of the augmented reality it gives you. They’ve also announced a major improvement in the single, principle issue I had with the original device. The augmented display (the computer generated bit that is laid over your view of the world) is now around twice the size of the original, vastly improving your field. of view. Which makes the virtual elements much more impressive. And, as a final flourish, the Hololens now also includes eye-tracking, so the device can work out where you are looking, which should greatly ease interaction and reduce the amount of hand waving you have to do to attract its attention. It looks like another wonderful device that I can’t afford, having a business oriented price tag of around 3,000 dollars.
However, with a bit of luck it might encourage lots of people upgrade, leading to a flood of cut price Hololens 1 devices going onto the market. I wouldn’t mind that at all…
The second big announcement was of the return of the Microsoft Kinect sensor, at a slightly less eye watering (but still clearly business focused) 399 dollars. I loved the original Kinect senor so much I wrote a book about it. For the second sensor I created the awesome Carbonite machine that used to sensor to make a 3D printable object of you embedded in carbonite. The first Kinect was, at the time of release, the fastest selling peripheral ever. Microsoft had high hopes for its successor, in fact for a while it was impossible to buy an Xbox One without getting a Kinect as well. Unfortunately the device never really lived up to is promise on the home front, and the Kinect sensor was quietly retired a while back.
But industry has always found the KInect very useful, and so Microsoft has brought it back. It has the same depth sensor as the Xbox One version, which is fine by me, but that is paired with a much higher resolution video camera and a bunch more microphones. It’s a great way for generating spacial data that can then be processed in the cloud. I’m really pleased to see it back again, and might even see if I can afford to get one to play with.