After getting a Microsoft HoloLens in the offices, our first impressions are largely positive, but the headset's big Achilles' heel – the one that jumps out like a pimple to a teen before prom night – is its limited field of view. Since pictures tend to be worth a thousand words, we decided to save ourselves about 550 of them and mock up what HoloLens' field of view really looks like vs. the ludicrous expectations that Microsoft's marketing is putting out there.
Surely you've seen Microsoft's HoloLens mockups by now, dazzling and inciting curiosity by showing rooms of virtual objects and characters, just waiting to be played with. Here are just a couple of many examples:
Looks like a neat device, no? Positively futuristic – perhaps even enough to brand Microsoft as the single greatest innovative force in all of tech.
Well, here are a few of our own mockups to temper expectations. These are approximate illustrations of our experience, created in Photoshop (using a combination of a HoloLens screenshot and pics we took from the same spot with a separate camera).
First, our version of how Microsoft's website would sell our scene (and how HoloLens' built-in screenshot tool captured it). This is everything in the scene that could be eventually seen by looking around in all directions:
But here's all HoloLens' limited field of view would really capture, looking straight ahead at the same angle:
And now if you turn your head a bit to the left you start to see different parts of the scene:
... and then if you look up and back to the right you get a closer look at just the Edge browser hologram pinned to the wall:
It's still extremely cool, but a far cry from what Microsoft is selling.
With a far-out tech like AR, it's understandable Microsoft wants to paint as attractive a picture of the experience as possible. It gets us excited and associating next-gen ideas with their brand. Even more importantly, it gets developers making apps for it – so that when the reality catches up to the fantasy and the lie becomes a truth, Windows will be the software running on these headsets.
But it also makes for a jarring first impression once you actually try the headset. And that's too bad, because there's a lot that's amazing about today's HoloLens dev kit. This is a single piece of hardware that, in later versions, has the potential to replace all other screens in your life.
In fairness, after a while, my brain does begin to sort of perceive the holographic environments the way Microsoft is selling them. Yes, your view into the augmented world, at any given point, is small. But after you move your head around enough and walk around to see the virtual objects from multiple angles, your mind starts to splice them together to paint a combined picture of the whole. It's similar to the way your brain would construct complete sentences by hovering a magnifying glass over teeny-tiny print, one word at a time.
You can also walk back several steps (if your room is big enough to allow it) to get somewhat more complete views of the holographic environments.
Either way, the lessons here are a) don't always buy everything companies are selling, especially when it comes to futuristic concepts, and b) as impressive as HoloLens is on the whole, AR has a ways to go before it completely lives up to what we're imagining.
For more, you can read our review of the HoloLens Developer Edition.