Though HoloLens 2 is both more-affordable and capable than its predecessor was, it’d be a mistake to see it as anything but a double-down on Microsoft’s first effort at building a holographic computer for the masses.
It's still technically possible we'll eventually see a AR headset targeted at mainstream consumers from Microsoft but this isn't it. Speaking to PC World Australia at this year’s Mobile World Congress, Craig Cincotta didn't shy away from that fact.
Cincotta told us that - from start to finish - the HoloLens 2 was very much a product built by the feedback they got from their first effort in the augmented reality space.
One of the things we heard from a hardware perspective was make it more comfortable, make it more immersive. For a lot of people that meant expanding the field of view – which we’ve done - but the other core tenet of feedback we got was that [they] need quicker time-to-value and, from a software perspective, something that was more plug-and-play,"
Asked whether the software side of the package is more important than the physical hardware, Cincotta insists a balance is necessary.
“You need to push forward that software experience so that people can get that instant value the moment they take it out of the box with the desires that people have to have the hardware evolve the way they want it to evolve,” he says.
Of course, with that in-mind, the next question you have to ask is whether Microsoft intends to back off from their involvement in the virtual reality space as the HoloLens becomes more mature. Where HoloLens has gained more momentum and a clearer sense of identity over time, Microsoft's efforts Windows Mixed Reality VR platform have only slowed-down by comparison.
Cincotta’s answer is a definite negative.
“We’re not. We will continue to have products that live on various points of that spectrum”
“We have HoloLens 2, which is an augmented reality. We have Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets, which our partners put out. Those are two products that exist on that spectrum and I always think you’ll see us developing things on it.”
When asked what it would take to make a HoloLens designed and priced for mainstream consumers, Cincotta doesn't shy away from articulating the challenges involved.
“It needs to be as comfortable as your glasses."
Of course, achieving this degree of consumer-friendly comfort won't come without compromise on other fronts.
Cincotta says that should Microsoft go down that route at this stage, the final results wouldn't come cheap.
“It’s not going to be affordable and it might not provide the immersive experience you want. There’s trade-offs - whether it’s the optics or the ability to have the resolution you’re looking for.
“We’re always balancing comfort, immersion of experience and affordability,” he says.
Asked about the potential for 5G to enhance or expand the possibilities of what HoloLens can offer, Cincotta is optimistic but reserved.
“I think from an industry perspective, we’re keeping an eye on it and taking advantage of it when the time is right. There’s nothing specific but we’re 1000% keeping an eye on it.”
Disclosure - PC World Australia's coverage of this year's MWC in Barcelona was sponsored by Oppo who covered the costs of our flights and accommodation.