Virtual Reality

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 improves on comfort and immersion for mixed reality

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 impro...
Microsoft has been showing off the HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress 2019
Microsoft has been showing off the HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress 2019
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Microsoft has been showing off the HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress 2019
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Microsoft has been showing off the HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress 2019
The HoloLens 2 doubles the field of view from its predecessor
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The HoloLens 2 doubles the field of view from its predecessor
Microsoft says the HoloLens 2 is more comfortable to wear that the original, and more convenient – with a visor that just flips up
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Microsoft says the HoloLens 2 is more comfortable to wear that the original, and more convenient – with a visor that just flips up
Eye tracking has also been improved with the HoloLens 2, for more realistic interactions with holograms
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Eye tracking has also been improved with the HoloLens 2, for more realistic interactions with holograms
At US$3,500, the HoloLens 2 is still priced for the early adopter market
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At US$3,500, the HoloLens 2 is still priced for the early adopter market

Microsoft first introduced HoloLens all the way back in 2015. The mixed reality headset went on sale in 2016, but has remained distinctly business-focused. Now, a sequel has arrived: the HoloLens 2 brings with it better ergonomics, greater immersion, and improved technology across the board.

The field of view has been doubled with the HoloLens 2, enabling you to see more at once – something that was a problem with the original. The holographic density remains the same at 47 pixels per degree, which essentially means you shouldn't be able to discern individual pixels in the projected graphics.

Speaking of the holograms that the HoloLens 2 floats in front of your eyeballs on its visor, these can now be directly interacted with thanks to some improved on-board AI smarts and upgraded eye-tracking technologies.

Whereas the first HoloLens let you manipulate holograms through a series of gestures, with HoloLens 2 the objects become more real and life-like in terms of interaction – obviously they're not actually there, and can't be physically touched, but you can go to grab and rotate them as you would if they were real, and they will respond.

Eye tracking has also been improved with the HoloLens 2, for more realistic interactions with holograms
Eye tracking has also been improved with the HoloLens 2, for more realistic interactions with holograms

"The end result is like going from watching a cartoon flip book to the truly immersive experience of actual cinema," Microsoft says.

Another way this upgraded eye-tracking improves the HoloLens experience is with reading text, which will scroll automatically as you reach the end of a section.

Improved comfort is also key to the HoloLens 2 – the new headset has a more balanced center of gravity, is lighter to wear, and is easier to get on and off too. Improved heat management means the HoloLens 2 will fit a greater number of head shapes and sizes more comfortably than its predecessor did.

If you're new to HoloLens and wondering how the "mixed reality" (MR) term fits with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), it's simply the term Microsoft prefers for advanced AR – computer graphics overlaid on top of the real world in an immersive and realistic way.

To make matters more confusing, Microsoft also uses the term for its Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which deal in VR and fully computer generated worlds rather than AR. Other companies vary, with some adopting MR as a term and others sticking to VR and AR.

Whatever the ins and outs of the technology, the HoloLens 2 means Microsoft stays at the cutting edge of MR/AR tech in 2019. The price is still very much at an early adopter level though: US$3,500. Pre-orders are open, though no official on sale date has been given.

Product page: Microsoft

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