Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Use Your Head! Microsoft’s HoloLens


Following on from my blog about Virtual Reality headsets, I’ve recently found out about a new headset called the HoloLens. It’s Microsoft’s new holographic projection headset, that is designed for Windows 10 (don’t ask me what happened to 9!). I wanted to look at its uses and see if there were any positives or negatives for disabled people.

What Is The HoloLens?

The HoloLens is an augmented reality headset, a lot like the Virtual Reality glasses and headsets that are gaining popularity at the moment. However, unlike Google Glass, this headset aims to add holograms into the world around you, using software called Windows Holographic. It’s essentially a self-contained computer, with dedicated software to process holographic images.

You will put the headset on, you’ll be able to see the room you’re in, but the headset will overlay holographic images onto objects in the room and by using gestures, you will be able to interact with these holographic images. Probably easier if I just show you the video!


Packed With Potential

According to website Geek.com, there are features of this device that could potentially be very useful for people with certain specific needs. Geek.com notes that: ‘It’s a visor that covers your entire field of vision, but instead of taking over everything you see like the Oculus Rift, it overlays images on the real world — it’s less virtual reality and more augmented reality.’ This could be a cool feature and by making use of this real world reality, it could make objects on the screen clearer for visually impaired people to see, due to the idea of ‘augmented reality’.

The Verge.com also says that the dark visor up front contains a see-through display, there’s spatial sound so you can “hear” holograms behind you, and HoloLens also integrates a set of motion and environmental ‘sensors.’ This concept of hearing objects that are around you or on the screen could make it easier for visually impaired people and those with no vision at all, to access the computer screen and perhaps play videogames if they were somehow linked up to the headset which would be amazing!

Microsoft not only envisages the headset being used for business and for entertainment, but also for educational purposes too. This way of learning could potentially be good for those who are deaf or have limited mobility as well, as instead of learning something by hearing or being asked to complete instructions; the headset can transmit these instructions straight into your field of vision. This way of learning could also be good for people with certain cognitive or neurological disabilities. The mix of augmented reality with real life objects could make it easier for people to see or understand aspects of a computer game or an educational tool. For example, someone with compromised vision may not be able to see a pixelated chair, but using the augmented reality software, they may be able to see the chair in the game if it was closer to the real thing.

Finally the fact that it is in headset form and can use gestures rather than keyboard and mouse could help those with limited movement to benefit, enhancing the experience of both gaming and work related activities.

Any Drawbacks?

As with any new announcement it could just turn out to be vapourware, and there are some drawbacks. Firstly, Geek.com notes that this is more of a computer that happens to be attached to your face as opposed to a headset that the wearer could have on all day, everyday – less of a ‘wearable’ as Geek.com puts it. Also, the website notes that: ‘Games running in Windows Holographic would only make sense if they interacted with real world objects. Otherwise the transparency of the visor is a hindrance, not a help. It also risks being rather gimmicky. After all, how often do you need a 3D model floating in your field of vision?’

Is It Worth It?

The answer here is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It seems like a good idea in principle. Yes it might be useful to be able to project images in front of you in your living room and not need to be sat at a computer or have to carry a laptop around with you as you do tasks around the house…but do we really need that? However, if someone can’t touch tiny buttons on a phone or type on a keyboard but can manage some gestures, this might be something to help them.

What do you think about this new device? Comment below and get involved!






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