HolonizeThePlanet - Epiphany

Epiphany

Creating software for HoloLens is difficult when you don’t have one. Not only do we have to take the abilities of the hardware on faith, we also have to assume that functions exist. On top of this, we want to develop an application that will be intuitive, and responsive to a user’s needs.

During a discussion about the menu design we realized we could prototype almost 80% of Holonize by changing a couple of assumptions. Even better, we could release it in the wild much sooner than expected.

Our specs tell us our device needs to:

  • Connect to the internet so we can download objects.
  • Browse the internet with a web browser.
  • Detect and quantify user movement.
  • Provide a display that lets the user see reality as well as superimposed 3D objects.
  • Recognize a “location” to provide object positioning.
  • Support UDP to communicate to others when an object is being moved or interacted with.

Most of this can be done on a device that’s ubiquitous. One that’s in every household, and probably in your hand right now. We can do this with mobile phones and tablets to give the user a “window” into our augmented reality.

The only thing mobile devices can’t do is map a room. Which posed a problem. How would we know where an object was supposed to be displayed?

Enter the QR code.

If we printed a QR code or similar design on a piece of paper, Holonize could recognize this as the position for displaying an object i.e. scan a QR code, recognize it, access the internet to find out what object should be displayed there, display the object on top of the QR code.

So, time to create a new functional specification for Holonize for mobile!!!

HolonizeThePlanet - Cortana

Cortana

HoloLens does not have mouse or keyboard input. In demonstrations users have started applications by looking at a menu and air tapping. This could grow cumbersome depending on how many applications you have installed.

Microsoft is pushing voice recognition for HoloLens. Does this mean it can listen to your speech and follow your instructions? Not exactly.

To test voice activation we started with Windows 10 Cortana before looking at Unity integration. Could we get Windows 10 to start Holonize? It seems like a simple task. We setup the environment and… we made a discovery.

Cortana doesn’t like Romanians! It didn’t matter how much our local Romanian Radu tried to sound American (and it WAS funny watching that) Cortana simply didn’t want anything to do with him. He tried HOLE-AND-I’s, HOLLAND-DYES, HOLE-EN-EYES… every failure making his voice sound more and more tense, frustrated, and Romanian.

When Radu stepped out, and with a single HOLLEN-EYES, we had Holonize up and running.

HolonizeThePlanet - TechEd

TechEd

TechEd is finally coming to New Zealand. Having watched the live streaming of presentations online that discuss HoloLens we hoped to finally see one in action. HoloLens is the latest breakthrough technology… well, maybe not the latest, but it is breakthrough… well okay, it has been in development for the last 8 years so … we can at least say it is an emerging (to market) technology that we expect TechEd to promote loudly and endlessly.

Only … it didn’t.

We spent an hour scouring all the sessions that TechEd was covering. Obviously there were dozens of sessions about Windows 10, Office 360, Visual Studio, Windows Azure etc etc etc, but only 1, single, solitary session about HoloLens (well, 2 sessions, but the second session is simply a repeat of the first).

In New Zealand, TechEd is the most prestigious IT event of the year which almost all software developers look forward to. It reveals the latest breakthroughs in technology with speakers who are versed in products and processes and provide examples and samples showing how they are used and incorporated in real software.

So….rather than spend thousands of dollars on tickets without knowing if we were going to get to see or work with HoloLens, the decision was made to send one of us along to review the first HoloLens session. If the review was good then the rest of us would buy tickets to see the second HoloLens session.

The day came, the session was presented and it was a substantial letdown. HoloLens was a no-show. Yes, the presenters were there, and so were the slideshows and video. But HoloLens was not. No HoloLens, no 3D cameras, no real time display of augmented reality.

This was a major disappointment. On the bright side we did save thousands of dollars on tickets. We hope to see HoloLens at TechEd in the coming years.