Microsoft's Latest HoloLens Is Here, And It's Amazing

The HoloLens headset from Microsoft is the world’s first untethered wearable that generates holograms before your eyes.

The HoloLens headset from Microsoft is the world’s first untethered wearable that generates holograms before your eyes. It’s been nearly a year since we first strapped a prototype to our faces, and as the tech goliath prepares to unleash a first batch of units to developers in the coming months, I was invited to check out just how far the technology has come. Holograms are here people — and they’re going to change your life.

As a kid who grew up with a hand-me-down rabbit-ear TV and a rotary phone, I sometimes wonder if modern-day reality is actually a Jetsons-like, cyberpunk, Truman Show scifi whose clandestine cameras I’m completely oblivious to. Well, I had one of those moments earlier this week when I tried out HoloLens for the very first time, and the work Microsoft put in is evident. Sure the experience is still occasionally glitchy, but make no mistake, it’s very cool. Between improvements seemingly made since our last hands-on, and after playing Microsoft’s recently debuted augmented reality video game, I’m convinced: We’re entering the age of the hologram.

Plus? Starting today, Microsoft’s letting developers flock to their flagship store in New York City to try out the same demos I did a few days ago. I’ll go through ’em one by one. But first, let’s talk about the HoloLens’ progress.

Here at Gizmodo, we’ve had hands-on with the headset before. And there are still a few pitfalls that still exist: The field-of-vision is still narrow, meaning you can only see holograms directly in front of you. The headset still feels a bit top-heavy. And the adjustment wheel on the strap that goes around the back of your head snags your hair while you rotate it to tighten the thing onto your head. Not pleasant.

But, there are many improvements! I didn’t see any of the distracting rainbow-like effects at the corner of the goggles, as we did in a previous hands-on opportunity. I also didn’t notice any reflective objects in the room bouncing back light that distracted from the illusion — instead, actual objects looked actual objects, and the holograms looked like holograms. And, while I didn’t participate in previous Gizmodo firsthand tests, I didn’t think that you had to move your head too much in order to move the “cursor” that floats in front of your eyes to select menu items, as we previously reported. All those items were compact, and required minimal noggin tilting, in my opinion.

One huge update? We got to play Project X — now called Project X-Ray — for the very first time. That’s the dope-as-hell AR video game that was demoed on stage back in October. Slip HoloLens on, and malicious alien robots tunnel through your breakfast nook’s walls and unload lasers of doom at you. It’s your job to gun ’em down. It’s Halo meets laser tag.

In the game, enemy alien robots explode through the real walls in the room in AR, leaving you to physically scramble around the room to track them down, physically manoeuvring to avoid their beams. There were a couple moments when I felt like the image signal flowing before my eyes was kind of weak; like, the AR images were kind of faint and flickery. Overall though, it was intuitive to use with the handheld controller that was provided. The actual gameplay was precise and responsive, as well. Foes disappeared as soon as they were hit, with the same instant feedback you’d find in a traditional video game.