Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, the second generation of its mixed reality headset, is expected to start shipping this year.
Microsoft executive vice president of artificial intelligence and research Harry Shum, speaking at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai today, said the device would be available as soon as September.
But Microsoft, which unveiled the HoloLens 2 at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona in February and has been accepting pre-orders, would not confirm the exact timing of the headset’s availability. The company previously said HoloLens 2 initially would be available in the United States, Japan, China, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia and New Zealand.
“As we announced in February, Microsoft HoloLens 2 will begin shipping later this year,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. “We have started collecting expressions of interest for HoloLens 2 pre-orders and, as part of our standard practice for gathering feedback, have shared near-final prototypes with some customers, but have not announced a date for general availability.”
Microsoft released its first HoloLens in 2016 and, since then, mixed reality has transformed the way work is done at construction sites and factory floors to operating rooms and classrooms – even the International Space Station — Julia White, Microsoft Azure’s corporate vice president said in a February blog post about HoloLens 2.
At Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference last month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the “mixed-reality cloud” was a new commercial opportunity that’s being unlocked.
“It's [the] bridging of business process and any application across the boundaries of what's virtual and what's physical,” Nadella said. “HoloLens 2 is an absolute breakthrough.”
HoloLens 2 is designed to be more immersive and comfortable.
Microsoft said it’s improved its visual display system, so holograms are more vibrant and realistic, allowing text and intricate details of 3D images to be viewed more easily, at lower power. It’s also doubled the headset’s field of view, which it said is akin to moving from a 720-pixel resolution television to a 2K television for each of a user’s eyes.
The headset’s new time-of-flight depth sensor combines with built-in artificial intelligence and semantic understanding to enable the direct manipulation of holograms, allowing users to touch, grasp and move them and have them respond more like real-world physical objects.
Features aimed at wearability include a light carbon fiber material and a new “dial-in fit” mechanism that allows for more ease and comfort in putting on and wearing the headset.
Microsoft also has announced that open-source web browser company Mozilla was creating a prototype Firefox Reality browser for HoloLens2.
The HoloLens 2 also can be customized to fit customers’ particular needs for the environments in which they work.
DataMesh testing of HoloLens2
DataMesh, which provides enterprise solutions that streamline data collection, distribution and collaboration, is one of Microsoft’s mixed-reality partners that’s been testing HoloLens 2 and porting apps in the last few months, according to CEO Jie Li.
HoloLens 2 shows great potential over HoloLens 1 in terms of better compute power, the Azure Kinect Integration for full hand tracking and potentially object recognition, the larger field of view, eye tracking, USB-C charging and potentially accessories, and its balanced design, according to Li, whose company has offices in Beijing, Redmond, Washington, and Tokyo.
“We are already working with several manufacturing and service industry customers to enable them with our Digital Twin solutions,” the DataMesh CEO said. “One of the projects is to create a full simulator for heavy machinery operator training overseas – 300 (to) 400 locations – and HoloLens 2 is the only device currently capable of delivering the minimal experience for real operation, not just a demo. We are expecting much greater adoption in every industry during HoloLens 2’s lifecycle.”
HoloLens 2 apps and solutions
Microsoft and its mixed-reality partners are developing applications for HoloLens 2.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions include Remote Assist, a mixed-reality tool for collaboration among employees working together from different locations; Dynamics 365 Guides, which helps employees learn by doing with step-by-step instructions and is available in preview; and Dynamics 365 Layout, which allows users to design spaces and walk others through them at a real-world scale.
Software developer Trimble plans to release the Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2, a hard hat version of HoloLens 2 for front-line construction, oil and gas, and manufacturing workers deployed in safety-controlled environments. The hat, which will work in conjunction with Trimble’s cloud-based Trimble Connect for HoloLens collaboration platform, has a suggested retail price of US$4750.
HoloLens 2 Pricing
HoloLens 2 is priced at US$3500 per device, but there also are bundled packages.
Bundles with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist start at US$125 per month, per user.
The HoloLens 2 Development Edition, which includes free trials of Unity Pro software and PiXYZ Plugin along with US$500 in Microsoft Azure credits, is US$3500 per device or US$99 per month.