HoloLens 2: Everything you need to know
Microsoft’s HoloLens debuted as an exciting mixed reality headset that overlaid VR images on top of the real world in new, high-tech ways. People were excited about the way it would change gaming, communication, and business.
Fast forward a few years, and the first HoloLens remains on a very limited release. Outside of a few limited applications and a very big deal just announced with U.S. Navy, HoloLens hasn’t done much. HoloLens 2, however — known under the code name “Sydney” — promises to be a different story altogether. Here’s all the latest news about the second HoloLens and when you can expect it.
Release date and price
We won’t need to wait long for firm announcements from Microsoft about the HoloLens 2 and just what it’s going to look like. Alex Kipman, who’s in charge of the HoloLens project, has sent out media invites for a press conference with him and CEO Satya Nadella, just ahead of the Mobile World Congress event on February 24.
The name “HoloLens” is not specifically mentioned in any of this content, but – well, it’s easy to infer a lot from how this was announced and who it comes from. The lack of specific names could indicate that the next generation HoloLens may have different trademarking involved, or something else that Microsoft is saving as a surprise.
As for price, the HoloLens 2 won’t be cheap. The original developer edition costs $3,000, while the “commercial suite” starts at $5,000. We would expect the sequel to be a similar ballpark, but we won’t know for sure until MWC.
New teaser video released
— Alex Kipman (@akipman) February 11, 2019
Along with the invites to a special event, Kipman also released a quick teaser video. This video does not explicitly show the HoloLens. As we noted, it actually looks like the marketing material for previous Surface devices, with an elemental style including melting metals and twining fibers.
So, what’s this all about? Well, it seems to indicate a focus on hardware updates, specifically when it comes to form and possibly processing power. It could indicate, for example, an upgrade to carbon fiber materials to make the headset more lightweight and comfortable. Of course, with videos like these it’s hard to tell exactly what they mean, but it does indicate that Microsoft is unveiling a new approach to the HoloLens — and is trying to hype people up.
AI and new sensors
Microsoft has already noted that the new HoloLens technology will include advanced AI tech. The Microsoft Research team specifically showed off a new HPU (holographic processing unit) at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference of 2017.
This new chip includes an AI co-processor that will help interpret the images that the HoloLens is “seeing” more accurately, which allows for better overlays and much faster response time (otherwise, data might have to be sent to the cloud for analysis, which would take much longer). The AI solution is so good it can recognize individual parts of the human hand while it’s moving — something important for, as an example, helping Navy soldiers practice loading armaments. This appears to borrow technology both from Microsoft’s Azure AI and from the now largely defunct Kinect gaming sensor.
The AI co-processor will also apparently be used to help with advanced speech recognition, which indicates that audio commands, interpretation, and even environmental sounds will be a bigger part of the next HoloLens experience.
New patent news points to a streamlined product
A Microsoft patent has also been discovered that clearly details plans for an upgraded HoloLens. According to these plans, the HoloLens will be used a single system for both mapping the real-world terrain while tracking objects that terrain and projecting CG images on top of that terrain.
This is important for a couple different reasons. First, it allows Microsoft to save room and make the HoloLens more compact — or at least make room for other hardware. Second, it helps increase the accuracy for harder tasks like following a bouncing ball or sensing depth in a complex environment (like a forest). Third, it’s quite possible that this will help lower the price of the HoloLens, which is badly needed: Commercially, the first HoloLens costs a whopping $5,000 to buy as a consumer. You can bet Microsoft wants to get that price down a bit if it wants to appeal at all to gamers and other individual buyers.
A brand new processor
We already mentioned the AI co-processor that’s sure to be included in the HoloLens 2, but it also looks like the primary processor could also see a significant change. While early rumors suggested that the HoloLens would use the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, we now expect them to pick the Snapdragon 850 chip or something very similar.
These ARM-based chips are ideal for augmented reality applications, but it would be a shift from the Intel Atom CPU that the original HoloLens uses. However, we do expect Microsoft to use Windows Core OS for operation.