News: How I Got Started with the HoloLens & NextReality

How I Got Started with the HoloLens & NextReality

If you've been following NextReality, you've surely seen me around, or at least have seen my articles. My name is Jason Odom, aka Subere23, and it's about time for a formal introduction.

My background primarily falls in the computer game industry, and I have co-owned a small studio with roles as level-designer, producer, project manager and director on many titles for Activision and Take 2 Interactive. After ten years, the instability of the industry, the inconsistent work, and the small talent pool here in the South sent me into a downward spiral of frustration.

I sold out my part of the company and eventually found a management position in a stable corporate job. Of course, I was a gamer and developer at heart, so I taught game development at night and was always doing small software projects on the side throughout the next ten-year period.

And then I found my true calling.

'But That Was Just a Dream'

January 21, 2015 was a life-changing day for me. I have always been what one might call a Microsoft fanboy. Even as a musician, I have always preferred the Windows OS over its more creative thinker-friendly competitor. So it will come as no surprise that I was watching Microsoft's Windows 10 press event that day.

The presentation started pretty standard with Terry Myerson, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, making a great case for Windows 10. Microsoft has always been a solid company, in my experience, and has really bloomed under the care of CEO Satya Nadella. As someone with a good deal of customer service experience in my life, Microsoft is the best I have ever witnessed—and I mean consistently—which showed in the Windows 10 event.

The full Windows 10 event from January 21, 2015.

At the time, the game library on the Xbox One platform was still pretty light. As a big gamer with a background in game development, I was hoping for some new game announcements. It wasn't E3, and I knew that, but they could have given us something, right? There were some decent things announced, but I remember getting really tired as Phil Spencer and the Xbox One section drew to a close.

It was at this point, I began to fall asleep. The press conference had been going for an hour and a half, and the Microsoft Surface Hub presentation just wasn't enough, at that moment, to keep my attention.

Next up was someone named Alex Kipman. In the back of my mind, I knew his name linked to the Kinect somehow. For whatever reason, I just could not seem to remember. What I did know was that I was almost comfortably asleep. The sounds of talking began to fall away. The layers of thought that compete for my fading mind's attention, and the seemingly random firing of synapses, began to form the nonsensical collection of thoughts that eventually become dreams. And then I heard it.


Alex Kipman showing off the HoloLens for the first time. Image via Microsoft

The word fell from Alex Kipman's mouth, and in a split-second, I was wide awake. Mr. Kipman had my full, undivided attention. I continued watching the presentation in amazement, energy levels rising, mouth sitting fully agape. This was something I had been waiting on for my entire life.

The HoloLens segment from the Windows 10 event.

Now, as a long time fan of the cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson, the futurist work of Neal Stephenson, and in more recent years, Daniel Suarez's techno-thrillers like Daemon and Freedom (TM), the ideas Kipman presented were straight out of some of my all-time favorite novels.

I then watched in awe as Lorraine Bardeen showed off the first live demo of HoloStudio, complete with a camera showing an outward perspective of the presentation. If I had been any more excited and energized, likely I would have spontaneously combusted right there.

Lorraine Bardeen demoing HoloStudio. Image via Microsoft

After racing to the new Microsoft HoloLens launch page and signing up as fast as I could, I knew at that moment that I had just witnessed something that would change my life forever—if not the entire world—and then quickly became impatient for it to get here.

I heard rumors that the HoloLens would be the price of an Xbox, so I began saving my money. Later, the rumors were the price of two Xbox consoles, so I kept saving. Those rumors were not even close, so I'm glad that I prepared for the worst-case scenario. I spent most of 2015 learning Unity on some of the advanced areas of the C# language, and I brushed up on skills I had not really used in some time. I did everything I could to prepare myself.

Fast forward to just over a year later, to February 29, 2016, the day I received an email from Microsoft titled "Microsoft HoloLens: Welcome to the team!" Now, let it be known, I am not a dancer—at all—but that day I danced. A lot.

My invitation to something new. Image by Jason Odom/NextReality

It's Called a Changeover

A few short weeks later, I had my HoloLens in hand and my new journey began. My social life more or less died, as I went through software prototype after prototype. Each program helped me to learn, to adapt my thoughts to the new control scheme, and understand the various other paradigms that were so different than my years of experience with 2D displays. Prototype one idea, start over and prototype another, learn more.

So for most of this year, I have essentially been working 120 hours a week. With a full-time day job, developing various holographic projects, and writing on multiple fronts, the cracks from too much work were beginning to show. I likely could not have sustained that workload much longer.

All of this leads us to last month, about 23 months after Alex Kipman changed my life, when I left my comfy management job of 10+ years and transitioned full-time here to NextReality where I could focus solely on augmented and mixed reality with the HoloLens.

'Soft-Spoken Changes Nothing'

Since getting my HoloLens, I have been fairly active in the development community. I have really enjoyed the way it has grown since I came into it. There are lots of new faces daily, and a large helpful group eager to welcome them and smooth out the "getting started" process.

My ultimate goal in joining NextReality is fostering that community.

As I guide the NextReality ship here, I do plan to maintain my development chops with side projects to keep my brain sharp, that way I can help deliver the latest mixed reality development news, the highest quality tutorials, and the best app information out there. You might have already noticed, but I recently went to HoloHack Atlanta and won, with the help of my teammates, my very first hackathon.

Those of you who have watched tutorials from me on my personal YouTube channel with any regularity, take note that all future HoloLens guides will be on the NextReality YouTube channel now. While I won't abandon my old channel, it will become less about tutorials and more about my personal prototypes, as well as talking about the higher concepts that may not work in NextReality posts.

As for tutorials on the site here, I've already started a HoloLens Dev 101 course for beginners to get their feet wet with Windows Holographic, so if you're new to HoloLens developing, that's a good place to start. There will be many more tutorials and series coming in the future, so stay tuned for those as well.

With all of that said, it is up to you, the community, to let us know what you need to learn or simply want to see here on NextReality. I like to hear a talkative community, so talk to me! How often are you using your HoloLens? What are your favorite uses for mixed reality? What do you find to be the best way to demo the HoloLens for the less tech-savvy?

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great read man, keep it up and good luck.

Thanks Shahril, I appreciate it!

Welcome to the world of mixed-reality, you made a smart choice jumping in now...

Doing a great job, brother.

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