I am a believer. The Hololens is a game changing device that will alter the technology landscape in ways we can’t even imagine. It represents one of biggest disruptions in computing since the smart phone. It may replace the computer monitor.
I found out about the Hololens CES demo almost by accident. In the corner of the big ballroom where vendors gave the press a preview Tuesday night, I met Bob Sopko, the partnership manager for Case Western University Innovation Lab. There was nothing in his small, out of the way booth in the corner of the big room except for a banner and a couple of students. “You should see our anatomy demo on the Hololens,” he said, “and also we’re going to have the Cavaliers Basketball Trophy Friday afternoon.” He spoke about the trophy with such reverence that I decided I’d visit Case Western’s booth after its holy appearance. I should not have waited. I should not have prioritized Vive and PlaystationVR. The Hololens has changed the way I look at everything in the VR/VR ecosystem. In fact, the Case Western demo erased every other memory of CES. I’m not making an overstatement: the Hololens is going to change the world.
The Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s first fully untethered holographic computer. It weighs just 579 grams (1.3 lbs) and fits comfortably on the head, leaving plenty of room for eyewear. The screen, a tiny, semitransparent window, floats in front of you. The Hololens is completely wireless and can be networked with the headsets around you, or even users elsewhere. And you could easily wear it all day every day.
When the demo starts, the box floating in front of me is transformed into a window through which I see a fully three dimensional, semi-transparent hologram, floating space. I walked around it, crawled under it, and watched Robert Gotschall, one of the Case engineers who developed the applications move and scale it with his fingers, no glove or controller needed.
The Medical and Astronomy Apps
Gotschall looked rather absurd as I waited my turn, pinching and pointing into the air to manipulate the hologram, shared by all the participants. When it was my turn, it made perfect sense. A life size body appeared in front of me. Gotschall expertly expanded the body into its component parts, the organs, the arteries, the nervous system. A medical student would theoretically no longer need a cadaver to see how the organs are layered together. Stick your head into the heart or the brain, and the hologram expands to show you the view inside. There were three of us on the system at the same time. It’s possible to network remote Hololens users into the demo, too.
The Astronomy application was equally impressive. The detail of it is breathtaking. The pyhsics are stunningly accurate. You see the sun and the the planets and the stars spin accurately as they and their moons rotate the sun. The planetarium is obsolete. The Hololens will transform education.
Other AR devices are mere toys
I have praised other demonstrations of VR and AR technology at the show, and many show great promise for architecture and design. I also experienced the human body using the Vive. It was an excellent though solitary experience, with similar features to the Case Western demo, exploding the circulation system, etc., but I had to use my controller to move around, and the image was less than crystal clear, as it saw it through the visible pixels of the headset’s optical system. The truth is you really can’t compare them.
The Category Killer
The Hololens is so superior to other VR/AR technology it will define the category. In a few short, very short, years, the Hololens is what we will think of as “virtual reality” and “headset”.
I have to have one. So will you. So will everyone who can afford it.