Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset is shipping today after being announced earlier this year. The HoloLens 2 headset, which costs $3,500, will be delivered to preorder customers in around a half-dozen countries. It’s an upgraded version of the device first released in 2016, featuring a wider field of view and more complex gesture controls.
The HoloLens 2 is shipping in the US, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. As my colleague Dieter Bohn detailed earlier, the HoloLens has gotten a redesign for better ergonomics, so its weight sits more comfortably and it’s less difficult to find a good viewing angle. Its field of view has substantially increased, from 34 degrees to 52 degrees diagonally — Microsoft has described the overall area as “more than doubled,” and while you can debate the specifics, it’s a dramatic improvement.
Microsoft has also added full-fledged gesture tracking, not just the “air tap” option from the original HoloLens. You can do things like pinch and drag objects or pull up menus by tapping a holographic button on your wrist. These new gestures are an important draw for companies that might want to upgrade from the earlier HoloLens, since they open up a new range of app options.
Microsoft prototyped some games and art apps for the first HoloLens, but the HoloLens 2 is aimed purely at business customers — especially people working in manufacturing or repair jobs where a hands-free heads-up display would come in handy. Buyers can pay an additional monthly fee for Microsoft’s Remote Assist software, which is designed for live, hands-free troubleshooting. Consumers aren’t meant to buy these headsets, but they may still interact with them in situations like product showrooms. And a custom US military version of the HoloLens is being built as part of the controversial Integrated Visual Augmentation System.
Microsoft communications director Greg Sullivan says the original HoloLens will still be supported, but some developers may start building apps that require the HoloLens 2’s gesture controls. And the preorder customers, he says, are a blend of new buyers and people who want to replace their first-generation devices. “The first time it was like, ‘What is this thing?’” says Sullivan. Now, there’s an existing base of customers — albeit a relatively small one — already sold on the idea.