Microsoft HoloLens hands-on: Is it enterprise-ready?

Microsoft serves up a slice of the future

Microsoft's HoloLens headset is the company's latest moonshot; an augmented reality device designed to overlay computer-generated digital images onto the user's vision in real time.

It's been available in the US and Canada since March, but last week the company finally opened up UK preorders for the headset, and invited IT Pro to come and try it out.

Advertisement - Article continues below

First of all, let's get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way: this is not a consumer product. Yes, the company has shown off consumer applications like an AR Minecraft demo and various other games, but it's a business device first and foremost.

It's also not officially available yet. While you can preorder a HoloLens unit, they're only development kits, intended to let software creators and companies start producing apps for the headset's Windows Holographic operating system. You'll need some serious cash to get your hands on one, too - they cost over 2,700 each.

However, once you actually put it on, it's easy to see where all that money's gone. While dev kits for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive looked boxy and unfinished, the build quality of the HoloLens is incredible. The headset's design and finish makes it feel like a sophisticated, premium unit - much closer to a finalised product than other early prototypes or dev kits we've seen.

HoloLens design

It's also very well-designed in terms of the weight distribution and fit. Other VR headsets have a tendency to feel front-heavy and can get uncomfortable after long periods of use, but HoloLens uses a counter-balancing system. The bulk of the unit doesn't actually rest on your head - instead, it's attached to a second concentric headband inside the main body's circumference that can be adjusted to fit the user.

With that having been said, our unit did take a bit of adjusting, and we found ourselves repeatedly fiddling with it throughout our demo session is order to reposition it for optimal fit - although this might be down to the fact that we were wearing it with glasses.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Thankfully, adjusting it is very easy and intuitive. The inner headband can be tightened with a dial on the back, while you can move the visor itself closer to or further from your eyes, and once it was comfortably seated, we didn't feel like it was in any danger of slipping off.

Rather than using dedicated peripheral devices, HoloLens features gesture and voice controls, with the primary method of interaction being the so-called 'Air Tap'. Simply point the visor at whatever you want to interact with, then pinch your thumb and forefinger together to 'click' it. Don't worry if that feels a bit too 'Minority Report' for you - it's also got Bluetooth support, which means you can connect a keyboard for traditional input.

Audio is provided via a built-in array of speakers, which provide positional sound based on the holographic object's location in the room. The accuracy is good, as is the volume - the speakers are loud enough to hear perfectly clearly, but not so loud as to overly disturb anyone else in the room.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The most impressive feature, however, is that HoloLens is totally untethered. Unlike every other high-end headset, HoloLens doesn't need a thick umbilical of trailing wires in order to function. In fact, it doesn't need to be paired with a computer at all; the unit is entirely self-contained, with all of the computation done by HoloLens' onboard 'holographic processing unit', or HPU.

This is a serious game-changer; not having to connect it to a mightily powerful PC or carve out a huge space to use it makes the HoloLens much more versatile. Because it's actually portable, employees can use it out in the field, which opens up a huge number of business use-cases.

We didn't notice the device's performance stutter or struggle at any point during our time with it - although it is worth bearing in mind that we don't have a clear indication of HoloLens' processing capabilities yet, and none of the demos seemed particularly strenuous.

Featured Resources

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Remote working 2020: Advantages and challenges

Discover how to overcome remote working challenges

Download now

Keep your data available with snapshot technology

Synology’s solution to your data protection problem

Download now

After the lockdown - reinventing the way your business works

Your guide to ensuring business continuity, no matter the crisis

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

3 Aug 2020
How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

4 Aug 2020
How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?
operating systems

How do I fix the Windows 10 Start Menu if it's frozen?

3 Aug 2020