Testing the Microsoft HoloLens

Sonal and I signed up to try out the Microsoft HoloLens last week at a local Microsoft store. It was a great experience to witness this piece of technology. The HoloLens is essentially a computer built into sunglasses where it overlays virtual objects on top of real-objects. In one example, you can put multiple computer screens in your actual living room, which are viewable only by you.

We were impressed by the stability of the augmented reality tracking. For those who don't know, image-based tracking is the computation of a device's position and pointing direction, and its biggest issue is something called drift. A simple example of drift is if you were to walk around the extents of a room and return to your exact starting spot and pointing direction, the recorded end-point doesn't match the recorded start-point, when it should. The error between them is called "drift". Thus, to correct for drift, your software continuously searches for previously-seen features in your viewpoint such as the corner of a doorway or a bookshelf to "lockdown" any drift error. It's like looking for landmarks to get a sense of direction.

Anyway, we were actively trying to break the HoloLens with funny actions and fast motions to see how stable the tracking software was. We managed to screw up the software ever so slightly, but it took some effort, and the system recovered pretty good. Impressive! The next chance we test, I think my co-founder Julien should go. He can usually "break" tracking systems really quickly since he lives and breathes algorithms.

We do see Shapetrace building for Microsoft HoloLens and similar head-mounted AR devices in the future, and we are setup for it. Testing the HoloLens is a glimpse of the future. While there are issues relating to how it fits on your face (my glasses made it awkward and uncomfortable), the bigger issue is mainstream adoption, and the construction industry is especially sensitive to this. For that reason, Shapetrace is starting with tablets/smartphones, which is a familiar interface.