News & Views

Opinion / My Month With The HoloLens

by Contagious Contributor
Matt Webb, global CTO at Mirum spent a month playing with Microsoft's mixed reality headset. He shares how he felt after trying out HoloLens and why he wants marketers to get going with the new tech

First off, hand on heart – I am still blown away. Yes, it has a couple of minor nuances like the letterbox view and the occasional gesture control frustrations but it is still epic.

But why put some words down about it when I am only a month in? Why not wait until we are all over it, until we have some things to show – a flashy client case study perhaps? Because I fear that we are not all over it. And by we I mean you, me, anyone who has an interest in the future of interfaces. As I have been fortunate enough to do some traveling with the this shiny new kit, it is blisteringly clear that people do not really know about it. Maybe it is because it is Microsoft that people who hear about it have confined it to geek-domin their minds? Or maybe it is because there are so many headsets available this year? Whatever the reason, I don't care. I am here to tell you that the HoloLens is not only awesome, but it also represents a significant shift in how we see the of the future of Human-Computer Interaction, and how close we are to a tipping point that will change the way we work!

I was fortunate enough to play with a HoloLens beta in Redmond last year and was expecting to be impressed but skeptical – I wasn’t.

I was completely sold on the concept, fidelity and the fact that it runs Windows 10 native. The box was opened and immediately people wanted to play – not just the techs. In truth, I was actually relieved to see such broad group be totally captivated by it – very different to other headsets. I brought it back to the UK to get some peace and quiet to have a play.

The things I have learned:

People respond the same way. All of them love it, all of them can see a future where they use the tech for their work or pleasure. When comparing it to recent VR or AR experiences, they start to talk about the implications across fields of interest (the car guys talking about how useful it would be for tutorials), the gamers (talking about multiplayer real world first person shooters), the data team talking about collaborative modelling and the IT team talking about removing all their desks, screens and phones. 

That said, there is definitely a noticeable gap in time to engage when it comes to different generations, regardless of backgrounds. The younger the generation, the faster the adoption/acceptance time – and when I say all ages, I mean everyone from a two year old to a 69 year old! Basic rule of thumb, the older you are the less you can move your neck! I’m serious, it seems that the people born into technology can look around the mix of real and virtual with practically zero doubt or worry that their head will fall off, whereas (for the sake of argument) those over 35 wait until they are sure they are in control until they move their neck!

The things I am worried about:

I mentioned it was good right? Well, so was the App store, so was VR, so was... the internet – and,to be fair, they all still are, but they have one thing in common – and that is digital landfill.

We saw it with AR – thousands of apps that do the same thing and no one really knows why they need it (use once, chuckle, delete). Now, we are seeing it with VR (What are the implications… can’t think of one, let’s do a campaign gimmick).

Why am I worried about this for HoloLens when it is a perfectly natural evolution of a new technology? Because the HoloLens is so much more than dancing monkeys and floating spacemen. I worry that like the rush for VR, companies and agencies will go straight for the easy win rather than focusing on the journey that shows the power of such great kit.

It should make you think about what would motivate you to put the headset on in the first place? What scenarios would work best – complete scenarios, not just individual tasks? What makes the headset better than a couple of other screens?

This is game changer tech and everyone has a responsibility to figure out how to change our world.

As a result, I am looking forward to Cortana being more involved with what you are doing as a proactive assistant, more focus on the link between physical and digital, maybe tele-conf interactions where physical objects are scanned and transported. While I’m at it, would be great to get a physiologist’s view on how the HoloLens can be used to affect behavioural changes, efficiency, focus etc!

I guess as we see more software, more reasons to use this type of tech, more sensor/haptics to make the experience even more immersive we will know if this is/was the tipping point toward the office of the future!

I can’t really mention “more software and more reasons” at this point in time without at least a minor reference to Pokemon GO – if that isn’t suited to HoloLens, I don’t know what is! Even Microsoft’s CEO called it “HoloLens Gold”! It isn't just the fact that you can play without running out in the road, knocking over a small child or falling down a pothole (well less chance anyway). Having the characters mapped to real physical space (and able to interact) as well as 360 sound – really does add a level of immersion that I bet the developers wished they had access to before HoloLens was released! Just look at how quickly the unoffical game developer jumped onto the bandwagon.
Going to sound like a stuck record here – but I want people to think of the implications of such great tech and not get focused on the tech! The more non geeks the merrier, and the sooner the better!