New Immersive Tech Series: Oculus Rift vs. Microsoft Hololens (Part 1)

HoloLens  

Lately I've been asked by a few clients to demonstrate and explain a lot of the new immersive technology coming out on the market.  The folks we work with look into all this cool new stuff and get a little overwhelmed by all of the choices they have for advancing their training programs.  In these next few posts, I am going to attempt to cover a lot of this hardware and explain their uses and benefits. That being said, let's jump right in with our first topic!

Augmented Reality (AR) vs. Virtual Reality (VR)

Two "up and coming" pieces of technology that many are just waiting to get their hands on are the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens. While both are pretty much situated on the cutting edge, they differ in some fundamental ways—Oculus Rift is all about immersing yourself in a total and complete virtual world, while Hololens allows you to augment the world you live in—using light-generated holograms.

Showpieces of users trying out the Rift are basically blindfolded with the headset that covers the eyes. The ultimate goal is to:

  • Experience games in a completely immersive way.
  • Experience movies from the first person (the company Condition One made a film just for the Oculus Rift called Zero Point).
  • Live out and perform in real world work conditions.
  • Explore a faraway place without traveling any distance at all. Some reviewers were quoted as saying it was like a dream come true for their former child self. You get to live out a different reality—an escapist’s wish fulfilled.

Microsoft’s Hololens is all about adding to the world you live in with elements of augmented reality, or "holograms." You don’t have to worry about walking into the coffee table while using it. The headset aspect looks a bit like the Rift, but you have a transparent lens. The concept is such that you get to see the holograms on top of your “real world.” It’s a digital overlay that can enable you to, for example, see your skype partner on the lens while drinking a cup of coffee (and not having to worry about spilling it). You can look out the window without taking off the lens; have a virtual meeting with your colleagues and still see the room you’re sitting in. Hololens runs on Windows 10, connects to your computer and interacts with the applications there. You'll have the ability to use everything on your Windows 10, in connection with the accompanying headset. Presently, it isn’t available on the market, however Microsoft recently gave access to the press to view the prototype they had on hand.

Oculus Rift is more about total immersion in a fantasy world, or getting completely into the simulation of something. Hololens is an accessory for adding holograms to the “real world.” Neither of them are ready yet for consumer use, but both promise usages appropriate within the professional world, education, entertainment, and more. Where Google glass was intended to be used out and about, both the Rift and Hololens are intended for use indoors, for the living room or the workplace.

It will be fascinating to see how both devices develop as they emerge on the market for consumer and professional use. Whether virtual reality will be used as a tool for life or holograms to improve our workspace, this futuristic technology is fast approaching.