We missed this video a few weeks back but it looks like NASA may have accidentally given us a glimpse of Microsoft’s upcoming HoloLens 2. As Next Reality noted, it’s a version that certainly looks different from the current HoloLens.
The video was actually showcasing Microsoft’s Onsight project which scientists use at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). The innovative AR platform lets them visualize the Martian landscape and remotely interact with each other to program and navigate the Martian rover. It’s an excellent model for the use of augmented reality in scientific work.
Here’s the video, and if you know Microsoft’s HMD well, you’ll quickly see what might be the upcoming HoloLens 2.
Regarding the OnSight project, Next Reality notes,
Using footage from NASA’s Curiosity rover, the application renders a 3D model of the terrain that enables engineers and scientists — geologists, in particular — to view rocks, dunes, valleys, and other features from the face of the red planet. Users in different locations can collaborate in the experience, with avatars representing colleagues walking through the immersive 3D model.
As a collaborative, multi-user platform, it’s always seemed to us to embody the potential for augmented/mixed reality in the learning environment.
Parker Abercrombie, the team lead for OnSight said,
Feeling like you’re standing on Mars really gives you a different sense of Mars than just looking at the pictures. And I think it’s a really powerful way to bring people to these places that they physically can’t visit.
That progress toward immersive access for the public will continue. We’re sticking by Elon Musk’s prediction that the next time humans step foot on the moon, we’ll have access to a virtual reality live stream. Assuming, of course, you have the tech to access it. And assuming that Musk doesn’t self-destruct before we get there.
A few HoloLens 2 details
HoloLens 2 should be out by spring 2019 – and no doubt Microsoft is working furiously since the release of the Magic Leap One, its prime competitor. Of course, the device in the video could just be a prototype. But if it is HoloLens 2, then it has a smaller frame and larger, squarish lens. Hopefully, that means a wider field of view.
Microsoft has said that the new version will be lighter and less expensive than the current version (less expensive than $3,000 is what?).
One tantalizing note is that it will include the fourth generation of Microsoft’s Kinect sensor for mapping environments. Always an amazing device, it’s time Kinect moved beyond the gaming community to professional applications.
However, the real breakthrough in HoloLens 2 will be the integration of artificial intelligence. AI was in a different place when the first HoloLens came out. But the next version will be based on an AI-powered Holographic Processing Unit. With the rapid progress of AI in object and environmental recognition, it may be the only solution for conserving battery and processing power in wearables.
In fact, AI will be embedded throughout mixed reality. If Magic Leap has its way, AI will even drive the virtual companions in your immersive environments. In the future, our silicon chips may not be judged by the processing power they hold, but by the degree of autonomy they reserve for us. Or not.
Sleep on that one for the night.
No HoloLens 2 now, but you can get to Mars
While you are waiting for Hololens 2 you can see what NASA has been doing on the Red Planet. The amazing Access Mars site is currently being updated from Webvr to Webxr. But you can navigate around in 360° video to check out where Curiosity has been.
The OnSight team is working on a public version of the app which would go beyond what the current Access Mars VR experience can do. We have no doubt you’ll soon be rendering Martian (and other) landscapes on your living room floor. And beaming in your remote friends to explore them with you.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.