Two of our team recently got to try Microsoft’s augmented reality headset, HoloLens — Damiaan at an event with RIBA, and Jamie at the Australian Microsoft partner summit.
If you haven’t heard of HoloLens, it’s Microsoft’s augmented reality headset that allows you to see 3D holograms in the environment you’re in and collaborate with people without being in the same physical place. This is an extraordinary opportunity for built environment designers.
That sounds great, of course, but is the actual experience of the device as good as the videos make it look? The answer is a resounding YES.
Here are Jamie and Damiaan’s experiences:
“I got to experience HoloLens in a small three-sided cubicle set up to represent a room. The first thing was to get the headset snug and tight on your head so it can’t move. It’s not heavy and not uncomfortable — you could easily wear this for a fairly extended period of time without fatigue.
“Once on, you can clearly see the room around you. There’s a small white circle visible floating out in front of you — this is like the cursor of a mouse. It stays in front of you and you have to place it onto an interactive object with your gaze to activate it — essentially the circle goes where you look.
“As I looked around the room, there were a few objects ready to interact with. On one wall was a video screen — invisible until the HoloLens goggles and my view traverse over it. On a shelf was a small holographic cube on a laptop (the laptop was real). Next to that on top of a record player was a floating icon — this was to access a folder of holograms. We’ll come to that.
“Looking into a corner near the floor, there was a small gorilla sitting on the floor, then a fish on a shelf, and some paintings on another wall. Every object is in full 3D.
“The guide from the HoloLens team asked me to try to move some objects around. To select an object, you move your gaze to place the white circle onto the object, then quickly pinch your forefinger and thumb together and then release immediately. This activates the object. To move it, you pinch without releasing. As long as the white dot and finger action works together, you can then move the object.
“Going back to the icon object on top of the record player, selecting it opened a folder of other holograms — in effect, a screen appears in the air that’s a file folder. My guide asked me to select a dinosaur — it looked like an orange and green 3D T-Rex. I moved it out of the folder and placed it on the floor. I was then asked to say ‘full size’. So I did. And was faced with a five-foot-tall T-Rex that was fully animated! I had to take several steps back to see it properly. It roared quietly. This was pretty cool.
“To dismiss an object, you move your whole hand in a kind of flower blooming motion up through the object.
“I then got to play with the video on the wall. I was able to tell it to play after I’d selected it and the audio comes from the headset. It’s also easy to move it around to a different position, and increase and decrease the screen size. This would be fantastic when talking to someone on Skype.
“My guide explained to me that it’s possible to open your OneDrive folder and pull images and other files straight out of it and into the space in front of you. I’d love to have tried this, but there was a queue to try this thing (and I’d got lucky).
“Overall, the experience was pretty surreal, but really immersive and a lot of fun. I’d love to see how this works in a collaborative design sense.”
“I had a chance to try out the HoloLens at RIBA earlier this year. Being at RIBA, we were given a few architectural models to choose from and navigate through while wearing the device. I’ve worked in consulting engineering firms for over 10 years, but I’m non-technical from a design/engineering point of view — I was just blown away by how immersive the experience was, and how easy it was to get around the model and get a feel for the building.
“From the perspective of a designer, I can see how it would be a great way to collaborate and give all stakeholders on a project a real feel for the building at each stage of the design process. Depending on the level of information you have in the model, it would be a great way to create efficiencies in the process, reducing design faults, clashes, and defects and just giving everyone a great understanding of not only what the end result should look like, but each iteration of the process and component of the building that needs to be completed to get there.”
Have you used HoloLens on a project? Share your experience below.