HoloLens are real.
And they are the coolest thing on Earth.
Edouard Wawra, CEO @ GamePix, was invited by Microsoft (like…The Microsoft Corporation!) to attend the most exclusive event of the year: BUILD 2015, San Francisco, California.
To those (we hope just a few) new to it, BUILD is the yearly developer conference hosted by Microsoft, focused on Windows, Windows Phone, Microsoft Azure and other Microsoft technologies, but in the last few years, BUILD became a sort of catch all event.
And guess what? GamePix “gotta catch ‘em all”! (we like games, you know :) )
Let’s start with a tidbit: this year tickets went sold out in LESS than an hour, number of attendees is unspecified (source).
Our CEO Edouard was among those few, but very fortunate, people to have tested the huge potential of HoloLens, the first fully untethered, see-through holographic computer. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, have a look at the following video, it’s worth a million words:
So, guess what Edouard did with it? Travel through space maybe? Nope, he “just” went to the sea and restocked it with colorful fish. But let’s start from the beginning and hear directly from Edouard about the exclusive hands-on Microsoft HoloLens:
After Satya Nadella’s keynote, they announced that just a few chosen people would have had the pleasure to try HoloLens on. Just one step was between me and the new toy: a draw on Microsoft’s website.
Well guys, if I hadn’t win one freaking ticket, I wouldn’t be here telling you my story, right?
In about 2 hours I got a confirmation email saying something like this: errr you are late, meeting is in 5 minutes! I dropped everything and rushed out of the building. I ran like I used to at school 10 years ago. My batch was already inside – damn it! I entered the hotel in a rush, begged the lady to let me in. Sorry I’m late, please! I complimented her hair and, crazy as it seems, it worked: I’m finally in!
I was then escorted to the hotel elevators, 27th floor. Atmosphere was magical, suffused lighting in a very long hallway, many doors (NEO, where are you?) – each one with guys from Microsoft on duty, so much security everywhere.
They took all of our recording devices away and then guided us to a room where my breath was taken away: there were no walls, just wide windows with the most incredible view of San Francisco. I’m on top of the world, right? We were then prepared to what would have come next: HoloLens were waiting for us in the next room. They measured our pupillary distance and told us that each session would be of 30 minutes. “Do you have any questions?”
Of course I do: “When will they be released on the market?”
“We can’t answer to that…Something else?”
“How much time have you been working on this? Was it before Google Glasses?”
“We can’t answer to this either. Anything more?”
“All clear.” Meaning: TOP SECRET.
We were then guided to the hallway full of mysterious doors and I finally understood what was hiding behind them. It was just a matter of seconds before I could finally try HoloLens. Two people were in my room: one taking notes, the other explaining me the basics. Interaction is about 3 things, GGV: Gaze, Gesture, Voice.
I was going to try HoloStudio, the 3D modeling software. Amazing. I put my HoloLens glasses on, they were quite comfortable, not heavy at all, easily adjustable to everyone’s head. I opened my eyes and saw the transparent glass, the room was just as clear as the real one. They turned on, Microsoft’s logo was floating in the room right in front of me. HoloStudio was ready: there was a toolbox, looking perfectly real, they told me I could just take it and move it wherever I’d like. I moved my eyes towards the sofa and with a gesture in the air (similar to the click on a mouse) the toolbox just moved on the sofa. It was crazy. In just 30 seconds I already forgot I was wearing a device on me, everything looked so real, that toolbox looked like it was just meters from me, on that sofa. Woah.
I opened it and found many tools: polygons, magnets, rubbers…what?! It kind of looked like Photoshop but tools were real, in front of me. The people in the room told me I could pick an already-set template and edit it, so I started from there. I picked the sea bottom, I’m in California after all, right?
There were scuba divers, a rock and some corals. They told me I could zoom in/out with a simple gesture, I went for it: I zoomed in the ocean floor to make it just as big as the room I was in. Incredible, there it was, stuck, in front of me, inside that room like it was real. I walked around it, I walked inside of it, I went close to the corals, they were just… there!! The image I was looking at – actually, the hologram – had no flaws, it wasn’t trembling nor flickering. Even when I was moving around pretty fast, everything was just exactly where I wanted it to be. I was speechless….and my friends know I’m really chatty.
I became quite familiar with the tool, took the rubber and with a gesture I erased a cage entangling a small fish. I took the fish and just moved it in front of the scuba divers, so they had something nice to look at. With my voice I said “copy” and I was suddenly looking at two lovely fish. I ended up copying a dozen. At that point things were so unreal yet perfectly real that I really felt like I was breathing underwater, having fun with those divers. I could just clone objects with my voice: I started copying everything, divers became 4, corals were everywhere. Then in the room someone asked me whether I would have liked to change colors: of course, I wanted to try it all! I went back to my toolbox and took a bottle of spray paint. With my eyes I picked a color and started changing colors everywhere. Blue corals, lighter sand, red alga, wanted to try everything I could. I even tried to do things out of pattern, just to see what happened. I tried walking while coloring, moving and zooming, but I just couldn’t break the system, couldn’t see no bugs. Everything looked perfect, right just where I put it minutes earlier, I could literally move inside my own creation, could see it from any angle, went closer, passed through it.
It was really an incredibly strong emotion, shivers run down my spine. With just a voice command I could export my project as 3D model for the web, saving it on SketchFab. After 25 minutes I was just moving and sketching and copying and having fun and I didn’t realize time was passing that fast…5 minutes more. I asked to try new features, they told me to use the voice command “scan” to scan the room and map it in 3D. As soon as I said the word, I saw a ray of light made by tiny green triangles, they came out of my eyes and just hit the room walls, the paintings and the sofa. This ray of triangles literally came from my eyes (and believe me when I say I still can’t believe I’m saying it), shapes bumped into the objects mapping them in 3D, it was incredible how defined every model was.
A few minutes later HoloLens turned off. Dammit, that was it…I couldn’t say any words anyway.
I went out the room, walking in the dark hallway full of doors and suffuse lights, thinking about that experience. It was just amazing. Something you never tried and also never imagined…was that even possible? You cannot call it Revolution but neither Evolution, because it is simply something new, that didn’t existed before.
I also tried Oculus Rift and Google Glasses last year, when my team and I were in Helsinki attending a special training program with Microsoft, but I have no doubt when I say that they are both really old. Old technology.
Microsoft did not just invent a new device, it invented a new Digital Era. I simply cannot imagine where this technology is going and where the human mind will focus its effort on. I am sure HoloLens will help human creativity do its best, there is no limit to what you can achieve with a technology like this.