HoloLens 2 Demo Goes Horribly Wrong at BUILD 2019
Andrew Wheeler posted on May 09, 2019 |

At BUILD 2019, Microsoft's flagship developer event, the introduction got off to a disappointing start. Planning and executing demos correctly is a huge part of giving the audience the ability to impute value about the new gadget, device, program or whatever it may be. 

Every company has had their share of demo snafus, but the HoloLens 2 Apollo 11 mishap was more than a stubborn tangle in what should have been a glorious visual denouement and accompaniment to a brief presentation by two legendary guests: the John Knoll (pictured on the right, Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light and Magic, who began as a motion control operator on films like Willow, Innerspace and Empire of the Sun, the first pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Willow and was the CG supervisor for The Abyss, the film which won ILM's tenth Academy Award for visual effects. He's gone on to be visual effects supervisor for countless films and projects. 

The second guest, Andrew Chaikan (pictured on the left), a noted space historian, author and speaker has a long history with space. He was a student intern on the 1976 Viking mission to Mars at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. As part of the Lander Imaging Team, Andrew worked on the twin cameras that would provide mankind's first photos of Mars captured by Viking 1, which was the first successful landing on Mars in history. Chaikan also wrote A Man on the Moon, which described the famed Apollo missions to the Moon with great depth and detail. The HBO 12-part miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, was based on Chaikan's book.

To have these two come out and perform a recreation of the Apollo 11 moon landing wearing HoloLens 2 headsets, which was announced this past February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, was a great idea for Microsoft. Unfortunately, the live demo backfired.

Ouch. Okay, but these things do happen. 

So, Microsoft released a rehearsal of the demo so everyone could see what was supposed to have taken place, and it is pretty cool. To skip the first minute and get right to the presentation, click here.

This is an amazing demonstration of the HoloLens 2's capabilities and a fascinating look (literally) at the legendary engineering behind NASA's historic Apollo 11 lunar mission.

The HoloLens 2 reveal in February caused a different type of shock when announced that the commercial edition would cost USD 3500. Microsoft just announced that the developer edition will cost the same amount, or for those truly suffering from sticker shock, you can develop on it for USD 99 per month in a subscription-based model. No matter if you choose the USD 3500 or USD 99 per month option, the developer edition comes with USD 500 of Azure (Microsoft Cloud Services) credit, the PIXYZ CAD plugin and three months of Unity Pro.

There is a consensus among technology reviewers that HoloLens 2 is more comfortable, ergonomic, and has better weight distribution. The Field-of-View (FoV) has greatly improved, it has more accurate environmental spatial mapping and
There is a consensus among technology reviewers that HoloLens 2 is more comfortable, ergonomic, and has better weight distribution. The Field-of-View (FoV) has greatly improved, it has more accurate environmental spatial mapping and "skeleton tracking" which models all 10 fingers, allowing users to interact with virtual objects much more easily. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

Patience is key when waiting for emerging technologies to perform practical tasks that are user-friendly for engineering purposes. Current data about nascent enterprise-level augmented reality markets are definitely unclear about the one thing that counts: is there a universal ROI for implementing augmented reality technology at the enterprise level for global engineering organizations?

Though enterprise is the name of the game for AR and VR, right now, the waters for mass adoption by consumer were tested and are not being forgotten. When Microsoft introduced HoloLens in 2015, people were genuinely ecstatic or curious to imagine that they might be witnessing the evolution of the dominant smartphone into the next computing platform, where 2D displays give way to the future, which is the 3D “holographic” experience. After all, the burning question engineers and tech executives have f0r the billions of individuals who consume personal computing technology and already have smartphones is this: what comes after the smartphone? Is it really a computing headset, or some type of smart glasses?

 We learned about the mysterious chip known as the Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) for the new Microsoft HoloLens, that there are 24 digital signal processing (DSP) cores of 1 GB of DDR3 RAM with a 28-nanometer co-processor. Specially designed by Tensilica and manufactured by TSMC, the HPU’s 24 cores contain 65 million logic gates and 8 MB of static RAM. There is also the super-tiny (14 nanometers) Atom Cherry Trail CPU from Intel running Windows 10 alongside the HPU. This “system-on-a-chip” allows the HPU to focus on all of the extra sensor data coming in from external and motionless physical data (a room, furniture, etc.) as well as hand gesture information. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
We learned about the mysterious chip known as the Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) for the new Microsoft HoloLens, that there are 24 digital signal processing (DSP) cores of 1 GB of DDR3 RAM with a 28-nanometer co-processor. Specially designed by Tensilica and manufactured by TSMC, the HPU’s 24 cores contain 65 million logic gates and 8 MB of static RAM. There is also the super-tiny (14 nanometers) Atom Cherry Trail CPU from Intel running Windows 10 alongside the HPU. This “system-on-a-chip” allows the HPU to focus on all of the extra sensor data coming in from external and motionless physical data (a room, furniture, etc.) as well as hand gesture information. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

We learned about the mysterious chip known as the Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) for the new Microsoft HoloLens, that there are 24 digital signal processing (DSP) cores of 1 GB of DDR3 RAM with a 28-nanometer co-processor. Specially designed by Tensilica and manufactured by TSMC, the HPU’s 24 cores contain 65 million logic gates and 8 MB of static RAM. There is also the super-tiny (14 nanometers) Braswell CPU from Intel running Windows 10 alongside the HPU. This “system-on-a-chip” allows the HPU to focus on all of the extra sensor data coming in from external and motionless physical data (a room, furniture, etc.) as well as hand gesture information. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

Practical Applications and Demos for HoloLens Keep Trickling Out from Developers

In 2016, Trimble launched a SketchUp Viewer app for Microsoft HoloLens that allows users to visualize and manipulate digital models over physical structures that serve the architecture, engineering and construction sectors. The promotional material is very cool, and the app itself seems amazing. There are many architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) professionals who use SketchUp alongside many 3D design professionals in other sectors, and architect Greg Lynn used its mixed-reality technology and Microsoft HoloLens to reimagine and design the Packard Plant—the historic, abandoned automobile factory in Detroit. The architectural project was commissioned as part of the U.S. Pavilion and will be featured at the 2016 Venice Biennale exhibition in Italy from May 28 through Nov. 27.”

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this past February, Trimble showed off the engineering capabilities of the HoloLens 2 with Trimble VP Roz Buick demonstrating a modified HoloLens 2 called the XR10, which is fully integrated with a hard hat. In her demo, the XR10 HoloLens was used to detect a clash where a section of a building's structure would interfere with a newly designed pipe structure. Engineers do not like such clashes and will do anything to avoid them. Plus, companies engaged in multi-million-dollar structural projects can afford a specialized tool or two to prevent expensive retrofits.

Bottom Line

Augmented reality continues to be a bit more promising than virtual reality in terms of delivering practical and innovative industrial engineering applications to enterprise sectors because of the one difference between the two—augmented reality allows you to layer digital information right on top of physical “data,” whether it's an object, structure or any part of physical reality. The failed demo at BUILD 2019 will erode confidence in ease-of-use, but the footage of the rehearsal run, which attendees were supposed to see, was incredible. 

However, the seemingly limitless potential for HoloLens 2 was slightly damaged at the event, underscoring how fragile technological optimism can be when the moment of truth arrives. It also underscores how concrete the investment capital must be to keep credibility about Microsoft's ability to develop and produce a truly ground-breaking product like the HoloLens 2 for engineers and for everyone else. 

Sometimes, despite the best engineering efforts of the brightest minds on the planet, things go wrong. Just ask Jim Lovell or Fred Haise, retired crew of the famed Apollo 13 mission (Jack Swaggert passed away in 1982.) But as they know better than perhaps anyone else in history, engineers are phenomenal problem solvers. 


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