After seeing the latest video from Microsoft, it’s clear the new HoloLens 2 will be released on February 24. Expect to see it at the Microsoft event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Usually, we don’t traffic in predictions on hardware releases. There are enough industry publications to cover that news. And of course, it’s never about the tech, but what you do with it that matters.
But this case is different. We just saw the release of Nreal’s new Mixed Reality Glasses at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. Our Magic Leap One sits on the desk, begging to be used every day. The new Bose AR Glasses have arrived (a review is coming). At Sundance last week, we tried out some incredible AR experiences. And Snap is rumored to have new Snap Spectacles coming (though we’re doubtful they’ll survive the year).
And all this while three long-running AR and Mixed Reality firms ended in bankruptcy and on the auction block a few weeks back.
When it comes to augmented reality, 2019 has left our heads spinning. And we’re not even through February.
This may not be the year of AR devices – that may have to wait until Apple does its own AR Glasses in 2020. But the door is opening to a new world of augmented and Mixed Reality experiences. We’ll see more developments in VR this year – including the Oculus Quest. But we sense the ground shifting underneath us.
We’re moving away from headsets that block out the world to devices that integrate immersive experiences into our environment. It’s the beginning of a new era of spatial computing that will transform learning, business, entertainment, and the ways we interact with one another.
And just like with our Smartphones, the impact on our social lives will be the hardest to fathom. Tinder messages chasing us down the street? Our political debates as virtual graffiti on our buildings? Live evaluations of performers and speakers (and yes, faculty) floating above their heads?
As the classic Backman-Turner Overdrive song put it way back in 1974,
Oooh, oooh she looked at me with big brown eyesAnd said,
You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-nothin’ yet
Here’s something that you never gonna forget
B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-nothin’ yet
New HoloLens 2 to be released
But I digress. The latest evidence for the new HoloLens 2 to arrive at MWC this month is the release of a short 42-second video by HoloLens creator Alex Kipman. As Geekwire notes, it has no specific references to HoloLens, just some carbon fiber elements and hints of a processor. And some Terminator 2-esque liquid metal images.
We already knew Kipman was planning an event at MWC and this – abstractly, at least – confirms what’s coming. Here’s the video, entitled “2.24.19 #MWC19.”
As Engadget noted,
While we heard last summer that the HoloLens 2 would use Qualcomm’s XR1 platform, more recent reports suggest Microsoft will use Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 ARM processor. Either should deliver high-performance mixed reality and, quite possibly, a more affordable and power-efficient design than the original. It’s also expected to have a wider field of view and sport a lighter body, both of which are important for something you could wear for hours at a time. All told, this might be the headset that helps HoloLens evolve from a niche, industry-focused device into something the general public would be willing to use.
We expect the new HoloLens 2 will be a consumer device, ready for release this summer. With Magic Leap and other AR devices coming fast, Microsoft can’t afford to spend more years languishing with a developer-only headset that finds a few applications in university labs and enterprise environments.
The new HoloLens 2 still won’t be an HMD for everyday use. Microsoft wants to be somewhere between Nreal’s AR Glasses and Magic Leap One. It’s about positioning themselves to respond to whatever Apple and Google deliver in 2020-21. Count on a HoloLens 3 in two years.
Our Spatial Computing Future
Virtual Reality isn’t going anywhere, and we’ll see innovative devices this year. But the move into AR and Mixed Reality is not just another development in immersive tech. If VR can transport us anywhere, Mixed Reality can transport anything into the space of our lived experience.
That’s a far more groundbreaking step than blocking out the world around you to go somewhere else. The world as we know it will never be the same.
Your move, Microsoft.
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.