Improved User Experience on the HoloLens2
The HoloLens 2 has made several improvements in user experience and capabilities over its predecessor. I am going to cover a few improvements where the user will experience the largest benefits of HoloLens 2.
Although the first HoloLens headset (HL1) was groundbreaking in many ways, the actual hardware did come with some problems. Sacrifices were made, especially in the area of comfort. The HL1 was very front heavy and became uncomfortable if worn for even short periods (~ 20 minutes), despite the addition of weight offset features like the head strap and nose piece.
By contrast, the even weight distribution between the front and back of the HL2 is a drastic improvement. The baseball cap fit is suitable for a wider variety of heads and was designed with comfort in mind. The flip-up visor allows you to quickly switch between tasks without having to fully remove the device.
Vision – Field of View (FOV) and IPD settings
The field of view is double that of the HL1. The HL1 was quite limited in terms of FoV and it was easy to lose holograms as you looked and moved around your space. The HL2 is much more immersive, it gives a better impression that these holograms are locked in the real world.
To render holograms correctly for each user’s eyes on HL1, you would have to measure a user’s Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD) with a pupilometer or another method, then find a way to enter that value to correctly set the IPD setting. There was not a straightforward or simple method to do this and to track settings for all users wearing the device, you needed a pc or tablet running a management software containing entered references to all HoloLens devices you were managing.
The calibration on HL2 is far ahead of its earlier incarnation in terms of ease of use. Iris detection is used to automatically notice new users and prompt them to go through the calibration process. The new process is entirely in the headset and is a quick test involving looking at various holographic objects in your field of vision. Once it has determined your IPD it will alter the display appropriately for your eyes.
One issue we experienced in the HL1 was the unintended audio pickup. When using multiple HL1s in a room setting, a voice command could be picked up by all devices in the room whether it was intended for that device or not.
The HL2 5 channel microphone array has a very important new feature, noise-canceling. This allows for more accurate and reliable recognition of the user’s commands in loud ambient noise situations. An additional effect is that anyone communicating with an HL2 user in such a situation will have a much easier time understanding them. For example, attempting to use Remote Assist on factory floors where the noise level can be very high is more viable with the new system. Also, when using multiple HoloLens devices in a single environment, one voice command is not picked up by multiple devices.
We performed 2 sets of audio tests with the HL1 versus the HL2. In the first test, 2 people wore HL2 headsets and 2 people wore HL1 devices. A person with no device stood on the far end of the room and loudly voiced a command. Both HL1 devices immediately picked up the command. The HL2 devices did not act upon the command until the user wearing the device stated the command. The microphones on the HL2 are much more focused on the person wearing the device and not picking up ambient noise.
The second test took place on a noisy factory floor. Two users wore HL2 devices, 2 users work HL1 devices. Voice commands were issued by all users. HL2 devices responded appropriately to all commands issued. The HL1 devices had trouble interpreting the voice commands due to the distractions of the background noise from the factory.
The improved hand, eye, and voice input open great avenues for user input. Articulated hand-tracking allows for more natural input, gestures and clearer intention from the user, as well as easily accessible but hidden menus and many other possibilities. Eye-tracking and reliable voice input open more options to cover as many situational needs as possible.