Architects Could Love the Microsoft HoloLens
Roopinder Tara posted on June 16, 2015 |

Microsoft's announcement of the HoloLens at its Build 2015 developer conference made a giant splash in the tech world. I'm not surprised. Microsoft has more marketing dollars than some countries. 

They've rented out an entire floor at the Intercontinental Hotel next to the Moscone Center where the Build is taking place. All the furniture is cleared out and rooms are stocked with their products and people -over 200 of them. 

A hotel staffer tells me President Obama with both the White House staff and Secret Service was less trouble. 

They are routing the media into the rooms, one at a time, with carefully rehearsed pitches. We are not allowed to take pictures, but we can take notes. Still, the techverse lights up with reports of the new augmented reality (AR -- it's not holograms, as it name would imply) headset. 

Ok, Microsoft, I get it. It’s cool. I'll have a better Minecraft experience (Microsoft owns Minecraft). I can make my apartment wall show me pictures of Hawaii. I can fix the plumbing under my sink as a virtual plumber tells me "righty tighty." But can I use it for architecture? Engineering? 

Trimble Sees Me Coming 

I’m shown their SketchUp product like I’ve never seen it before. There is a interior of a building in mid-construction, but what's this? An I-beam blocks the door? I can change that. Easier to move pixels than heavy steel objects. A physical architectural model viewed through the HoloLens allows me to see the SketchUp model superimposed upon it. I can raise and lower several of the roofs. 

A convention center looms over a seedy urbanscape. The neighborhood is real, having been scanned in. The convention center is only a dream in SketchUp, but you can see the two combined through the HoloLens. 

Engineering applications were unfortunately not touched upon, but you can see what might take place for manufacturing applications in the picture above. 

Trimble says SketchUp was the first AEC app to go live with with HoloLens, which is why they are enjoying the adulation of the media army assembled by Microsoft. I hear Autodesk has already announced a connection to HoloLens, but they must have missed the Build conference. 

"Let me get your interpupillary distance," says a technician with a device seemingly from an optician’s office. "The final version will not require this." I ask if I have to take off my glasses. "HoloLens is glasses-friendly." 

They really did know I was coming. 

Bigger than the Google Glass, but smaller than the Oculus Rift, the HoloLens lets you see the world around you while projecting into it what you might be designing. You can walk around with it, as I was able to do. At no time did I feel disoriented or unsure (Oculus Rift can do this to users, some even get nauseous, and some fall). The unit is comfortable enough, though I was only allowed 10 minutes with it. 

Although the HoloLens is not yet available, the look and feel has been finalized. 

 What Might the Users Think? 

Virtual reality in its various forms has delighted the tech press yet gained only limited acceptance. 

The world has been told that we will all experience "true 3D" soon, but most of us resist even using 3D glasses. The novelty of a weird creature coming at you from movie screens has worn thin. 

Google tried to make it cool to wear Glass, but for those who thought they were being filmed, it was not. Microsoft desperately needs to be seen as cool. Its cool stock has been taking a beating the last few years. Their latest CEO is bent on HoloLens as its ticket back into Cooldom. 

Satya Nadela, Microsoft CEO, who appears to be more the hipster than his predecessors, has been given the reins to wrest cool back from Apple. He seized upon HoloLens after seeing it in early development, still a mess of wires and many times its current size. He is reported to have picked the HoloLens as Microsoft’s first technological breakthrough under his command. 

Will Engineers and Architects Love it? 

Engineers have resisted strapping anything on their heads for any length of time. Architects, being more style-conscious, will appreciate the HoloLens' look more than the Oculus Rift, but might not be inclined to spring for expensive hardware for themselves. However, being able to sell their next big project because Mr. Moneybags the customer, is suitably impressed by cool technology and is dazzled by architect’s grand vision. Not to mention a definite business advantage over the last firm with their (yawn) page after page of sketches and silly little balsa wood models. What do you think? Would you wear the HoloLens if your software could use it? Use comments to reply. 

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