Microsoft HoloLens

So, amusingly, just after I write a story saying that wearables are dying, Microsoft is like, “Lol guys here’s holo-goggles.”

Those look super neat.

But I’m going to double down on wearables not being all that useful.  Microsoft’s tech is, if we are to believe the stories/demo videos, a much more capable (if also much more high-profile) piece of hardware than Google Glass.  But I still don’t know what the hell they’d be used for.

The demo that the article talks about is doing a simple wiring project (putting a light-switch onto an…  electrical box?  My wife is not going to be impressed by my knowledge of construction terms, here) and being coached through it by an electrician who can dynamically write stuff into her field of view to help her through it.  So this sounds like Microsoft’s answer to my question about wearables from last week: what is the experience that needs to be mediated by computers so extensively that it would be cumbersome to try to use your phone for it, yet so immediately and locally that you can’t use a laptop for it.  And it does indeed sound like a very cool experience, and I’d be excited to try it.  But it doesn’t sound like a business.

That is: how many projects exactly have you ever had that were things you’d be willing to pay for the time of an expert for, but could be accomplished with the tools you have in your house?  Enough to go out and plunk down $500 to $1500 for AR goggles?  How much would this save, anyway?  Isn’t most of the cost of hiring an electrician, well, the time of the electrician?  And probably the electrician could do the job himself more quickly than he could talk me through it.  There may be something here in the way of local labor market arbitrage (ie: “outsourcing”), but I’m dubious that it’s that much.

The science fiction view of these gadgets is “augmented reality,” and it’s all about incredibly contextual information.  Microsoft’s hardware, fancy as it is, doesn’t solve the problem of knowing what kind of information to show you before you yourself ask for it.

Here’s what I will say for the HoloLens: if the early reports are true, these things sound like they might be good gaming devices.  If so, they could get their feet into the door of a sizable percentage of the population, who then, having paid the fixed price, might be more willing to experiment with the augmented reality aspects of the experience.  On the other hand, that’s more or less what Microsoft tried to do with the Kinect: sell it as a gaming peripheral, use it to transform people’s interactions with their computing devices.  And history’s judgement of the Kinect seems to be: meh as a gaming device, useless as a new way to interact with your computing devices.

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2 thoughts on “Microsoft HoloLens

  1. The use for AR wiring diagrams is not homeowners, but Boeing technicians building airplanes – where it’s already deployed. In general, it’s leveraging the things organic brains excel at, fuzzy comparisons with the things machine brains are good at, routing thousands of wires from point to point.

    • There may be some theoretical Microsoft HoloLens-like product that would be useful for Boeing technicians building airplanes, but that product is not Microsoft HoloLens as it has been revealed so far.

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