Microsoft HoloLens: A jump into Augmented Reality

By: Sabina B.
On: September 19, 2016
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About Sabina B.


Sci-Fi movies have teased the public for years with their in-movie holographic technology, which seemed, in our time, so far away. Think of holograms in the Star Wars movies and Tom Cruise’s home videos in Minority Report (2002). But an unexpected and bizarrely sci-fi announcement earlier this year showed that holographic imagery is making its way into our lives – loud and clear.

Earlier this year, at the Windows 10 event, Microsoft surprised its audience when they introduced Windows Holographic with HoloLens. The HoloLens, a face-mounted computer, is “a wireless device that enables users to see virtual holograms in a 3D space” (Wilson 2015).

The HoloLens has been available to developers in the US and Canada for some time now. In addition, this August, Microsoft launched HoloLens ‘Commercial Suite’ for business buyers. It allows businesses who are interested in adopting the augmented reality and use it in their workplace, to purchase the HoloLens.

According to Alex Kipman, the project leader, Windows Holographic offers its users “more immersive ways to play, and new ways to teach and learn” ( 2015).


Applications of the HoloLens

Microsoft’s augmented reality HoloLens would not be complete without a release of a game: Project X-Ray. In the game, the player has to go up against a robot invasion with a holographic gauntlet weapon. According to Microsoft, each game is shaped individually, as the bots recognize the walls and furniture and strategize their attacks accordingly (Edwards 2015).

However, “while most of the focus on AR and VR development has been on entertainment applications, Microsoft is hoping that enterprises will also see value in the technology as a way to increase productivity” (Cozza 2016).

HoloLens user’s will also be able to manage their calendar and check their email using the augmented reality apps for Outlook. That means that, in case they want to, they will be able to pin their emails or notes on their office walls which will appear as floating holographic images.

With the introduction of the HoloLens, Microsoft wants to advance science and education. But how exactly, one might ask. Since its release, HoloLens has been implemented in different organizations, opening doors to new ways of teaching, learning and working.

Aside from being of aid in the architecture and construction industries, the HoloLens is finding its way into universities. At Case Western Reserve University, the holographic computer will be used to teach medicine. With this technology, students will be able to walk around anatomic models and observe organs, bones, and muscles without having to resort to cadavers.

Microsoft is also collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to make it possible for scientists to explore Mars from their office. By using HoloLens, scientists will be virtually present on Mars, “as a result, they will be able to learn at a faster pace than ever before” (Rundle 2015).

Science aside, HoloLens also made its debut into Fashion this weekend. Danish designer Martine Jarlgaard, ex-Vivienne Westwood’s Red Label Head Designer, presented her collection at London Fashion Week on September 17th in an immersive mixed reality (Arthur 2016). Since the early 1900’s the format of a fashion show has barely changed, the experience is often rather passive, with little engagement and at distance (Roberts-Islam). By presenting her collection via HoloLens, the wearer is able to have a more personal experience as he/she is able to walk around Jarlgaard creations at their own place.


The Good and the Bad

Studies show that AR technology can greatly enhance educational outcomes (Chiu, DeJaegher & Chao 2015). For instance, a study on AR technologies in university science laboratories showed that students’ laboratory skills enhanced significantly and affected their attitude toward physics laboratories in a positive way (Akçayır et al. 2016).

Moreover, augmented reality has proven to be a new and useful technique in clinical psychology, in the treatment of patients with certain disorders (Chicchi Giglioli et al. 2015).

In an “Ask me Anything” session on Reddit last year, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz said that devices that use stereoscopic 3D (like HoloLens) “can cause a spectrum of temporary and/or permanent neurologic deficits”(Abovitz 2015). A Microsoft spokesperson responded with a statement about how “Microsoft products are designed and manufactured to meet or exceed all applicable regulatory and industry safety standards” (Rubin 2015).

However, Eric Sabelman and Roger Lam, researchers at Kaiser Permanente, argue that “with augmented reality gear barely on the market, rigorous studies of its effects on vision and mobility have yet to be done” (2015). In their research, they found a number of reasons to be concerned about augmented reality gear. Wearing Google Glass and Sony’s Smart Eyeglass can cause a person to misjudge the speed of oncoming traffic, underestimate their reaction time, and unintentionally ignore hazardous signs when navigating (Sabelman & Lam). Even though there are technical solutions to these obstacles, such as safety modes, Sabelman and Lam believe that “people buying wearables wouldn’t want to stop the flow of information” (2015).
For now, we won’t be seeing Microsoft’s HoloLens out in public. However, given its display of colorful, realistic and attention grabbing objects, when eventually used in public, the HoloLens can also increase the risk of its use. Therefore, perhaps, it should be mandatory for people using augmented reality gear to be educated about the hazards of using these devices in general.





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Minority Report. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2002. Film.

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