The story of the HoloLens has been a mix of work and play. But while many developers have devoted time to creating gaming and entertainment apps for the HoloLens 1, with the HoloLens 2, Microsoft has been encouraging everyone to focus more on the enterprise side of things.
But there's apparently still hope for those looking to harness the powers of the HoloLens for mainstream consumer uses, as HoloLens co-creator Alex Kipman has just commented on the development of a consumer version.
The comments were revealed during The Wall Street Journal's The Future of Everything Festival. First, when asked about the prospects of a HoloLens 3 coming anytime soon, Kipman was predictably coy, indicating that there will indeed be a HoloLens 3, but that it would not be an incremental improvement, but would represent a "leap" in technology, design, and comfort.
However, the surprise here came when Kipman was asked about a possible consumer HoloLens device on the horizon.
"I don't think the technology today—goggles, at $3,500—is a consumer product. It's an amazing product and a transformative product for the industries we're in, but it's not a consumer product," said Kipman, in conversation with Joanna Stern. "As soon as we can get a proper level of immersion, and immersion is key, you can't go give some lightweight notifications in Google, put it in a device, put it on someone's face and assume that's a consumer product. You need the HoloLens 2 plus, plus-level of immersion in socially acceptable glasses."
That last comment seems to take a shot at both Google Glass and perhaps even North and its Focals, the company recently acquired by Google. It also seems to set the (possibly unfair) bar rather high for any upcoming Apple smartglasses device which, based on some industry chatter, could start out as notifications-focused rather than immersive.
As to how anyone can get to truly immersive AR smartglasses, Kipman lays out the case rather simply.
"Let me just contextualize that: The HoloLens 2 weighs about 500 grams and it consumes about 8 watts of power. Power is to heat is to comfort," said Kipman. "For you to get to [AR smartglasses] comfortably, 500 grams needs to become below 90 grams, and 8 watts need to become lower than 2 watts. So I need to increase the immersive, things that cost power and weight, but I need to be able to decrease the weight by over 5X, and decrease the power by over 4X."
Here, Kipman delves into why the HoloLens 2 is designed the way it is. But the tantalizing bit comes when he confirms that Microsoft is indeed working on a consumer-friendly version of AR smartglasses.
"When you put a HoloLens 2 on, where do we distribute the weight? On bone. On [your] cranium. We don't make the device, by design, to touch your nose or your ears…If I'm going to get to [AR smartglasses] I'm going to have to put weight on cartilage, and the human factors to do that comfortably aren't clear," said Kipman. "We are absolutely working on it. [I have] nothing to say on the 'when' here today, but it's definitely part of our strategy to make sure that we continue both inspiring and leading this mixed reality space forward."