Microsoft HoloLens and the UX of Augmented Reality
January 29, 2015
There’s been much ado this week about the debut of the Microsoft HoloLens and the renewed promise of augmented reality. The vision of a digitally enhanced world, with entertainment, gaming, and work options integrated spatially into our day-to-day existence is powerful stuff. But the disappointing adoption of the first major foray into the space, with Google Glass, has left us skeptical. Will augmented reality via glass or lens be relegated to specialist applications, like health and manufacturing? Or will consumers flock to the product that gets the user experience right? In this episode of The Digital Life, we examine the UX of augmented reality and discuss the promise and potential perils of the Microsoft HoloLens.
I watched the Microsoft video and it’s neat but it’s also, if you look at with a critical eye, it’s super problematic. There’s a lot of things they show that were just nuttybuns that are just … The total wrong use cases for using something like that.
The gestural interactions needed to achieve that kind of interaction with CAD software is going to be very tricky to pull off. While it looks great in the HoloLens initial promo marketing video, I think there’s going to be a drop-off when it comes to the actual user experience. That’s just my guess though.
It’s just really silly, yeah, and it falls into a typical error that technology companies have ever strive to make. They want to position their technology as just changing the whole world. “Oh my God, you’re going to put this thing on and go through your life and it’s going to change how you work, how you interact, how you travel, how you eat.” It doesn’t make sense.
It’s a tool and it’s a tool that when they get it right, it can do some really cool thing so there is potential in different ways for this kind of technology but along with being a long way away, it just isn’t everything. There’s something that is going to be awesome for. It really enhanced our experience, but there’s a lot of other things where it’s totally inappropriate and in the fanatic push to get the marketing out there and beat the drum, that’s ignored and vision is put forward that it’s silly.
The problem of course always comes down to how we’re going beyond the screen and in this case, as you pointed out, probably a few years away from realizing these kinds of screen overlays that will make virtual reality bind satisfactorily to our physical reality.
I don’t need to know the maker of the mug on my desk, for example. When you’re out in the physical world and trying to make decisions on … There’s a lot of use cases there, who they interact with, who might be offering a service that you’re looking for, or what have you. Then it becomes pregnant with possibilities, but the examples in this video for the most part, if not totally, someone in their home and or office and you just don’t need that kind of context there. There is potential. There some interesting stuff.
Another real concern is they’re still nowhere near solving for letting people use this kind of technology without getting headaches, without hurting themselves. I mean across the board, 3D televisions, Google Glass, Oculus Rift. You deal with those things for any period of time or if it’s just not quite in the right way after sitting at the wrong angle on the 3D TV or what not. You’re going to have a headache. It’s hurting your eyes. It’s hurting your brain. They’ve got a long, long, long way to go.
An additional point about these goggles and glasses is, I know some of them look like they’ve been through the industrial design process but they are also bulbous and ugly in a lot of ways. The Oculus Rift, we have one in the studio, one of our developers was playing with it and I’m like, it looked like an S&M object, honestly. It looks like something that was supposed to deprive you of your …
If these were things that were brand new or original ideas that could at least be sold as a thought experiment as opposed to a prototype and a product, I would respect that because we need to see what … It might not be ready yet for what is coming down the road but the fact is, that the technology that they’re showing here is stuff that we saw in Minority Report 15 years ago, a Hollywood movie that the technology for which was dreamed up and derivated from some of the top scientists and technologists who were tasked with looking in the future and seeing what computing would look like.
This is all done before. There’s nothing with Oculus Rift or Microsoft or any of these right now today that are showing us something that we haven’t seen before in a technology conceptual manner. There’s really no bang on that side. Then it has to be about being a real product and it simply isn’t. It’s years, potentially many, away from being a product and even when it is, it’s more likely to be a niche tool for certain use cases than this thing that’s strapped on your head or however it’s done when they finally get there all day for long period of time in a lot of different contexts. One thing is just, I don’t know. It’s masturbatory at best.
The promise of these niche applications is quite good and ultimately it will be interesting to see how that split happens whether there are gaming and health and maybe some other entertainment options available for these, but the general use case. This is not going to be your next iPhone and I think some of these large tech companies get confused when they’re looking to put together that next piece of hardware. I think everybody in the back of their head wants to have that iPhone or iPad breakout, new market product. I think that’s where some of these marketing hype might be coming from.
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