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Microsoft Unveils Hololens 2, Its Next-Generation Augmented Reality Headset

Microsoft unveiled the second generation of its Hololens augmented reality headset at a press event in Barcelona Sunday. The new headset features more than double the field of view of the original Hololens, according to Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman, while still offering 47 pixels per degree of sight.

Doubling the field of view is a big step for Hololens. Microsoft has never published the field-of-view data of the original Hololens, but has been reported to be between 30 and 35 degrees horizontally. The company didn’t share exact field-of-view data about the new headset either Sunday.

One of the major new features of Hololens 2 is hand tracking, which allows users to touch and interact with holograms. In a demo shown on stage Sunday, Hololens 2 was capable of precisely tracking each and every finger, allowing users to touch buttons and even play an AR piano.

The headset also comes with integrated eye tracking, and is meant to be more ergonomic. This includes a display that flips up, allowing wearers to easily switch between AR and real-world without having to take off the headset. Microsoft also developed what Kipman called a “universal fit system” for the device — a subtle dig at the Magic Leap One, which has to be custom-fitted for each and every user.

Microsoft is clearly still positioning the Hololens as a device for professionals. Kipman was launched on stage by Anand Argawala, the CEO of Spatial, for a demo of AR-powered meetings. Kipman also said that the company has made it easier for enterprise partners to customize the Hololens hardware to their own needs.

That focus on the enterprise also had a clear impact on the device pricing: Hololens 2 will cost $3500. The device can be pre-ordered effective immediately, and will initially be sold in United States, Japan, China, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia and New Zealand.

However, Microsoft also made it clear that it wants to be part of entertainment — if only the production side, for now. Kipman was joined on stage by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, who announced his company was adding Hololens 2 support to the Unreal Engine in an attempt to bring AR production tools to Hollywood and the video games industry.

Sweeney also hinted at a possibility that some of that technology will reach consumers at some point, saying: “In the years to come, Epic will support Hololens in all of our endeavors.”

In addition to Hololens 2, Microsoft also announced a few other hardware and software products that will enable next-generation immersive experiences. These include what the company calls Spatial Anchors — essentially a cloud-based AR solution that makes it possible to share persistent AR experiences across devices, including Android and iOS phones as well as Hololens headsets. “This will enable the internet of holograms,” said Kipman.

The company also announced remote rendering for AR experiences, and unveiled a new hardware accessory for the use of AR and other sensor-rich experiences in enterprises with the Azure Kinect depth-sensing camera. The Azure Kinect developer kit will be available for $399.

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