Microsoft working on making its HoloLens AR headset dramatically better


Microsoft’s AR headset HoloLens is still available for developers only, and there are no signs that the situation could change in the foreseeable future. But it seems that the company has not given up the idea of making its augmented reality gizmo more consumer-friendly. In fact, it is working on improvements that may open the path to a next-generation HoloLens – one that's more compact and delivers dramatically improved visuals.

What's wrong with Microsoft’s current HoloLens model? Well, pricing and availability aside, it is still quite bulky, no matter how cool it looks in demos, when it puts digital objects in the real world before your eyes. And no less importantly, it has a relatively narrow field of view – 30 by 17 degrees. To give you a rough idea of what this means, it is like having a screen 6 inches wide by 3.4 inches tall at a distance of 12 inches away from your face – that's the visual area HoloLens can currently cover.

In a recently published paper – linked at the bottom and loaded with technical details – Microsoft's research team outlines the technology behind its latest prototypes in the field of augmented reality and what they improve upon. Among the most notable advancements is the development of displays with an 80 degrees wide field of view. At the same time, these are small enough to fit in regular eyeglasses. The document mentioned above also describes features that would enable users to see the augmented images properly even if they wear prescription glasses.

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Alas, these are just some early research prototypes we are talking about. As Microsoft points out, there is still a lot of work to be done, and there are many technical challenges to be met before the prototypes could integrate all features into a single stand-alone AR headset. For example, a practical device would require better integration of eye tracking, the company says. Interestingly, this is exactly where one of the recent Microsoft patents seems to fit well. 

As a reminder, last December, the software giant filed a patent application offering a straightforward and presumably cheap method for eye tracking based on a capacitive technology – a solution that also looks applicable to wearable AR devices. Earlier in 2016, Microsoft made its AR headset HoloLens available for developers outside North America allowing more engineers to experiment with the device and to search for possible applications.

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