Microsoft has today announced that HoloLens 2, its second-generation wearable holographic computer with enhanced interaction capabilities, is now generally available and already shipping to customers. HoloLens 2 was announced in February earlier this year and has since slowly seeded to partners, developers, and now to customers looking to use them in commercial environments.
The first-generation HoloLens was a huge success for Microsoft, and the company is anticipating similar success with the HoloLens 2. It’s a vast improvement over the first-generation hardware, with new interaction models that let the user touch holograms with their hands. It’s a massive shift in the way the HoloLens experience works and makes it so much more intuitive to use.
We got to go hands-on with a HoloLens 2 prototype at Build in May, and the experience there felt incredibly polished. Microsoft let us play with a production unit this week, and while not much has changed, they have added some minor additions that are pretty incredible. First, holograms can now appear behind your hand, which makes the experience feel more real when you reach out to grab things.
For example, if I were to place my hand in front of a hologram, HoloLens 2 would do its best to cut out a gap where my hand is placed in my vision to make it seem like the hologram is further away. It’s not perfect, but it’s something you notice and appreciate when using the device.
Second, Microsoft has added shadows that follow your hand when they get close to holograms. A dark replica of your hand will appear just underneath your hand in some areas, which, while slightly delayed, will mimic that of a shadow. It’s a small addition, but it’s something I immediately noticed when interacting with the device. It doesn’t show up in all areas, however, meaning it’s definitely down to the developer if they want to enable shadows in their experience.
It’s also the first Windows Core OS device to go on sale, which is an interesting point of note. This version of the Windows Holographic OS is more secure, faster, and features new UX experiences such as an improved Start menu and more.
Either way, HoloLens 2 is now shipping, and it’s an excellent product. It’s designed for commercial and enterprise customers, and there are no current plans to ship a consumer-grade version. That’s unfortunate, but it makes sense considering there isn’t really an app platform for HoloLens 2. The device ships with Windows Holographic version 1903, and comes with a USB-C fast charger, head strap and forehead softener in the box.