Picture showing Microsoft HoloLens, used with permission from Microsoft

Microsoft HoloLens

What is HoloLens?

The Microsoft HoloLens is a Mixed Reality/Augmented Reality Headset (details on the definition of Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality) with very specific functions to super-impose the user’s view. HoloLens was introduced at the Windows-10-Event in Redmond on the 21. January 2015. The hardware allows its user to look through a visor into their real environment and insert semi-transparent visual additions, so called holograms. Those are fixated to a position in the real environment. Simple 2D images and depictions of web browser or office surfaces like Word and Excel, but also animated 3D models can be integrated. The user can interact with the content via gesture, gaze or voice control and read information him- or herself or create and share information in the Multi-User function according to the application (Collaborative Experience).

A basic HoloLens function is the reconstruction of the environment in real time. The device uses its various optical and non-optical sensors and creates the space in which the user is moving. If the device already knows a space, existing virtual additions can be shown, saved and reloaded at another time.

Announcement of the Microsoft HoloLens (2015)

HoloLens publication

The HoloLens was announced during the Microsoft Windows 10 presentation (21.01.2015) as the “Device of the future” and introduced on a few demos. In the video, the possibilities and selected fields of application of the technology platform are introduced and the vision of the new Hardware and Software platform will be explained.

Apps for the Hololens created by various developers

HoloLens-App by Microsoft

RoboRaid - Mixed Reality Gaming

RoboRaid makes the user the defender of his or her living room. The app uses the knowledge of the environment and creates holograms in the form of attacking robots on the real walls. Via finger gesturing and voice control, the gamer tries to destroy the invaders. An exiting game to show how hands-free Mixed Reality platforms can be used for entertainment.

HoloLens-App by Microsoft


Microsoft tries to reach the goal of making it possible for everyone to produce 3D contents with HoloStudio. The application is a successful application for creating and editing comparably simple 3D contents. Via this application 3D objects in 3D rooms can be edited via intuitive gestures and movements with virtual tools that have their origins in the reality.

HoloLens-App by Valorem

HoloTour - Mixed Reality Journey

Traveling without leaving the room – HoloTour offers fascinating perspectives, breath-taking views and exiting discoveries no real traveler could ever get. The user is joined and supported by a virtual travel guide (Melissa), who has historical and information corresponding to the content and makes understanding the destination easier. Traveling through time and space is, only virtually but thanks to the HoloLens, no longer just a dream.

How does Microsoft HoloLens work?

The Microsoft HoloLens is a Augmented Reality (AR) / Mixed Reality (MR) Headset, which shows virtual additions in context to the real environment on the field of view. Image information is independently calculated by the HoloLens (no need for extra computers as smartphones or similar devices) and projected on a certain type of lens in front of the user’s eye. The depiction of virtual additions (often called Holograms in order to be sales efficient) is in high-resolution and not in four colour pixels. It is shown as a collection of light points. Contents cannot only be passively consumed but also experienced actively, in which the interaction with the Microsoft HoloLens is controlled via gestures, voice and head movements. The user’s movement – respectively positioning of the device – is done following the inside-out tracking approach.

Various sensors and special software support the described experience. These components make it possible to recreate the user’s environment (room) as a 3D Modell and establish context between holograms and reality. The most important hardware elements are listed below:

  • Four cameras: among other things for the head and movement control. Two on each side, on the front left and right side
  • One depth camera: among other things for hand tracking (gesture recognition) and the reconstruction of the environment
  • 2MP Picture and video camera: to take and record pictures and videos
  • Holographic processing units: interface for all sensor data. Processes the data and analyses / updates the position of the holograms
  • Inertial measurement unit: position and rotation changes are detected with acceleration and rotation sensors and transmitted to the HPU

Which advantages has the HoloLens compared to other MR Plattforms?

MS HoloLens offers a stunning User-Experience that can be attributed to the integral approach of perfectly balanced hardware and software modules. The platform contains a robust Tracking-Technology and counts as one of the best-developed and best AR/MR platforms on the market. As a headset with a visor the users hands are completely free. Due to the hands-free usage various applications, that have been unimaginable before, have now become viable. The HoloLens also contains a great ecosystem (Windows Mixed Reality Products individually and Microsoft products in general). That is how an enormous potential of synergies arises.

What are the disadvantages of the HoloLens?

Due to the product design, space for batteries and computing power is highly restricted. The computing power is accordingly solid for a mobile terminal device, compared to a desktop computer, however, clearly outperformed. The battery life is also restricted to approximately 60 minutes (full usage) and 6h (at a continuously low usage). Another disadvantage would be the low spreading of the terminal device. Applications with the target of reaching as many terminal users as possible are hardly convertible. The reason for this dilemma is the high price of the device. The HoloLens is suitable for corporations (training of staff, increasing of productivity, demonstration of virtual contents on fairs, etc.). However, the hygiene has to be considered in those cases.