On the prelude of Microsoft’s yearly Build conference I had a firsthand opportunity to demo Microsoft’s HoloLens. In one of the best choreographed events I have attended, Microsoft gave 20 analysts a firsthand experience and demos, using the HoloLens themselves. 

Microsoft is still developing the HoloLens, so understandably secret about the device, e.g. we had to surrender all recording devices, including smartphones – but here are the takeaways on the specs I can share:
  • HoloLens is not a companion, but standalone device
  • HoloLens is for all practical purposes 
  • The design is beautiful and functional, attached to the head similar to modern biking helmets with a screw adjusting the hold of the Hololens
  • To work properly, the HoloLens needs to know the pupillary distance of the user. For the demo Microsoft measured us – the later product is supposed to be able to do this automatically.
  • The HoloLens creates a (surprisingly small) viewing area which to my subjective sensation was maybe 20% of my visual field, leaving plenty of room to see the surrounding area, rest of the room I was in.
  • Positively I could wear my glasses under the HoloLens, with no perceivable loss of functionality and quality.
  • The speakers on the HoloLens are very good – supporting a good user experience even more.
  • The critical fist – tap motion – equivalent to a click works for both hands, but needs some adjustment – the first needs to be visible to the Hololens for it to capture the action, so the fist needs to be in (for me) a little bit intuitive position. It’s great to see it works for left and right hands, though in my tests a little better on the right.
  • The projection is flawless, speedy and looks all along real. No slow rendering, stumbling etc. 
We missed key specs such as on processor(s) – apart from Microsoft saying that the HoloLens is ‘stuffed with sensors’, memory, battery life, connectivity etc. etc. – as Microsoft is not ready to share them.

We were able to go through the following demos:
  • In partnership with a construction material vendor, Microsoft allowed us to fill one of the most ugly voids in the USA, downtown Denver, the empty block between California, Welton St and 15th and 16th street. A model is in place, but the planned construction is virtual, only visible in the Hololens. We were able to change color, angles and zoom the whole structure – apart from moving and placing it. 
  • Next was the inside view of a construction building and we saw the blocked door dilemma, a construction classic: Where there is supposed to be a door is in reality a structural key column, pillar, etc. Finding it, creating a workaround is laborious and expensive. We were able to see the problem (actually someone left a note for us) and inspect the solution, which triggered another problem (a pipe) that we discovered and left a voice note to the plumbing team. A convincing demo. 
  • Next we were in a living room setting, where we could place objects, pin them and move them in the room. We could instruct HoloLens to scan the room (incl. people) and then leverage that information. Next was extending a 3D model – we added fishes in different colors and angles to an underwater 3D Diorama – using a toolbox – all with our hands and fingers.
  • Lastly Microsoft demonstrated a Skype demo, where the Skype window can be placed like a monitor and place anywhere. Interestingly HoloLens recognizes real world surfaces. The Skype users were able to swap 3D models (of course a Seattle Space Needle with a mandatory 12th man flag) and modify them.

Overall very cool demos and it looks like HoloLens is ready at least for short demo sessions and settings. 

What are the implications of HoloLens?

  • The most immediate value to me was general user experience. Today most of us operate with the 2nd (and 3rd) monitor. It looks like every Windows application can be ‘pinned’ and put somewhere. Not so good news for monitor makers, but totally different productivity for Windows users.
  • The Skype demo was also convincing – but building 3D models is not something you can do in a few minutes. 
  • Gaming will be revolutionized by HoloLens. 
  • The 3D Diorama showed some creative potential for consumers and professionals. Being able to create something and then used in the immediate room, walk around it like a real object opens for many, many applications.
  • Visualizing complex objects - e.g. learning or diagnosing the human body will be great applications. 
  • Augmented reality - as a physical robot getting a virtual Hololens personality will be great use cases, too.
  • 3D Objects need to be built. No surprise Microsoft shows this at its developer conference Build, HoloLens developer will be the newest job title in the long lists of jobs / functions Microsoft has created. 


Great progress by Microsoft since the 121 event – where the HoloLens was the combo of night vision googles with small life support unit attached. No dates are set for the release (so far) but the potential of a virtual reality / augmented reality device like the HoloLens is very clear. Being PC based will give HoloLens a lot of runway for basic tasks, as well as dissolve any IT fears in the corporate world of another device to understand, maintain and secure. A lot more still has to happen to make it a consumer, real world ready product, but Microsoft has shown the value of HoloLens, now it needs to show that it can make it real for businesses and consumer from a product maturity, ecosystem, and content and price perspective. Stay tuned.