Last year at BUILD 2015, everyone was excited about the range of new products and services Microsoft was revealing. During the Day 1 keynote, Hololens received crazy applause and I was ready to buy and start developing apps immediately regardless of price.
But you could hear the long echo of groans of thousands of developers when we were told that only a couple hundred devices were brought for demoing and training purposes. You had to sign up on a website to even be considered. How in the world was I going to be one of those few over the next couple of days? After a few moments of hesitation, the demo request form was completed.
The day went on with classes, networking and a terrible free lunch. An email came through stating I made the list and provided instructions to leave the Moscone Center to a secret remote location, and to arrive thirty minutes early before the session.
After checking in and waiting in line, the Hololens keynote speaker walks by with a lady to the bar. He seemed like a cool guy. Security was tight and was only receiving guests with Hololens lanyards. A device was mounted in a glass case near the waiting room where we received further instructions on dos and don’ts for our mission. They also did an eye test so the device could be calibrated for the user’s measurement. My charm didn’t work at all, nobody leaked any info. These guys were trained by the CIA.
At the start of our session, all the guests were placed into separate hotel rooms. I had two gentlemen assisting me. The blinds were closed with the lamps very dim. Only a computer desk, bench and a few decors filled the room. They asked me to sit down the bench to be adjusted with a device. It felt like wearing shades. The room wasn’t that much darker. The person at the computer desk did something and the device started up.
The first part of the demo showed a piece of art décor. I was told walk around and examine it. It was so vivid, exceeding my expectations. The visual was not washed out or semi-transparent like previously imagined. You could not see through the hologram. Though the device allowed the full viewing angle of the user’s natural eyes, the holograms only showed in a long rectangle. Imagine a welders helmet that is transparent. I was told to walk to the furthest wall and say a command. It sent waves of blue lines all over the room in the viewing direction. It even went up the wall and across the plant leaves. It’s scanning, cool! They then said move the art décor and stick it on the wall, easily done with a couple of finger taps.
The second part of the demo showed the contents of a fish bowl. It was enlarged and there were swimmers, fish, bubbles seaweed, etc. It looked like a large 3D model, but you could rotate the fish, copy and paste them. They were all individual objects in the static, non-animated environment. There was a closed pipe, and you could delete the bars and put a fish inside. Different pointing controls came from something called Holo Studio, looking something like a mixture of a toolbox and art tools.
And now for the third and final part of the demo, painting a space fighter craft. By this time, the device started to get heavy. My head doesn’t have a common shape, so they had to adjust the device balancing again. All the hologram 3D models looked cell shaded. I was hoping for some high quality textured experiences. The model could be viewed by any human positioned angle, even under the hologram by squatting. There was a slight problem with viewing through the rectangle. The closer you got to a large hologram, the less of it you saw without moving the neck. Developers should remember to keep large holograms at a distance of the user’s position. After painting the fighter, the model was uploaded to a web application that allowed an interactive web view of the finished model.
That was it. The rest of the group started leaving their rooms. We talked about our sessions, which were different. Somebody got a demo of a CAD and construction experience. They took us back to the lockers to get our personal belongings and a free Hololens poster.
It was a really cool experience, and will be fun to develop for.