Hands-on HoloLens

Trying out a HoloLens

Last night I attended a talk on The Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality, hosted by General Assembly. I’ve been to a couple of GA talks before and they always feature engaging speakers, I was pleased I took the time to check this out.

Before the talk a team of HoloLens experts from Kazendi gave demos of a mixed reality travel experience. This was the first time I have had the opportunity to try a HoloLens headset – boy, was it heavy! The headset has an adjustment wheel on the back to make it sit correctly on your head. Despite this, it seemed very cumbersome and I spent most of the time holding it onto my head to position it correctly. The VR experience was fun but another novelty that wouldn’t augment reality enough for me to justify wearing such a heavy headset. Given the price of these units (£3K+) the experience for me was kind of disappointing.

The panel discussion was interesting though, most notably the comments by Jeremy Dalton – VR/AR Lead at PWC. Dalton cited four main commercial applications he can foresee for virtual reality:

  • Training applications – already used by US firms like Walmart;
  • Design applications that enable prototyping of complex physical products like Ford cars and Airbus planes;
  • Data Visualisation;
  • Telepresence – bringing you somewhere you couldn’t otherwise be. The most interesting example discussed was the courtroom, where VR enables accidents and scenarios to be accurately reconstructed and viewed through the eyes of a witness. Simulations incorporate physical conditions (such as weather and traffic at the time of the incident) and can demonstrate how these distractions could potentially influence the scene.

The group discussed how such a niche technology like AR could ever go mainstream. Dalton suggested that a collaboration with a luxury fashion brand could help bring AR into the public domain. Headsets certainly need styling before any fashion conscious person would ever consider wearing one!

An audience member highlighted the role of ethics in VR, which is something I have never considered. The panel talked about children using VR, advertising standards, data and privacy; what is being tracked. It was suggested that your brain remembers a VR experience ‘like a memory’ which is different to how you perceive remembering something you saw on a screen. I’d never considered this, it’s quite a mind-bending idea when you start thinking about it!

Excellent talk, certainly got me thinking about aspects of VR I had yet to consider.