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A Magic Leap Of Faith

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I work with holograms every day. I am one of the lucky developers whose company has multiple Microsoft Hololens devices, and our team has successfully developed two proprietary apps for agencies in the real estate field. We partnered very early with Microsoft, and I was given a solid glimpse into the journey their team took to create this interesting headset.

Hololens is a fantastic first generation holographic device, but it’s not without disappointment. The biggest thing, which everyone immediately recognizes once they put it on for the first time, is the very small FOV. With their tiny square screen filling way less than 45 degrees of your field of view, you need to keep their amazingly clear holographic images at way more than arm’s length to take it all in.

win_20160330_12_30_03_proThe hardest challenge with Hololens, as a developer, is trying to cram quality graphics and detail into a last gen Atom processor with an inadequate amount of RAM, and a GPU that can just barely push 30 frames per second in a busy scene. Shader experts and modeling magicians are a must for your Hololens dev team.

Let’s not talk about battery life or price. $3000 dollars gets you a sleek looking device with a 3.5 hour battery life.

Putting it simply, Hololens is your best hope for mixed reality on the current market.

What would the ultimate AR/MR device look like? What specs would it need?

First off, the screen and optic technology needs to improve. Fill my entire field of view, at least 100 degrees, with non-warped, and super clear holograms, all while not obstructing real world visibility. This would require a massive jump in optics and screen technology that is likely not to occur overnight.

Secondly, the computing power of the headset needs to increase exponentially, without melting my face or killing the battery. Even if the CPU/GPU were to be moved into an external box, maybe worn on a belt, it would end up being massive due to the battery size that would be needed. Again, a massive jump in battery and component technology is needed to make this a comfortable size. I’m not sure anyone would want to wear a laptop in a backpack for 4 hours of AR/MR. That would be a step backwards from the form factor Hololens provides.

Third, the form factor needs to get smaller. Everyone wants a headset that just looks like a big pair of sunglasses. Smaller form factor means less room to cram things. This is actually going to create a huge problem for the first two points. Make it faster, stronger, lighter, and have a great battery life, all at the same time. Anyone with half a brain can look at these points and know that we are talking about at least 5 years of incremental advances and multiple generations of the device.

Two years ago, a company started gathering money based on a promise of such a device. A few videos of their ‘vision’ of a future product, and investors exchanged hundreds of millions of dollars for a promise and a wink. Big names, well known investors, basically turned a company with no viable product into a 4.5 billion dollar monster. Why?

Some people say that their prototypes were big and bulky, and under a very controlled demo, gave the appearance of progress toward their goal. Extreme NDAs kept ‘most’ people from talking about what they saw, which provided an aura of mystery, kept their investors at bay, and also gave the company plenty of time to hash out their next moves.

Here is my question. If I could immediately see that basic technical challenges would prevent this company from achieving what they were promising, then how come billionaire tech investors were duped? Do these investors really just throw money at people’s reputations, and not consider that their ‘idea’ might not be the best?

I need to make one thing clear. I do not work for a startup, nor have I ever been denied investor money. This has nothing to do with jealousy, but has everything to do with concern for the industry. There are legitimate startups in the VR/AR/MR space that could probably use a few million dollars to finish their very real product. Instead, investors are dumping money into a very unrealistic promise.

What does this say to other investors, or the people looking for money? It says that it is more important to have lofty, unrealistic goals, with a big name behind it, as opposed to a legitimate and tangible product.

Then again, we don’t have all of the details yet. Maybe this company has make some huge evolutionary leaps in technology that we can’t fathom. Maybe they have cracked the code to optics and miniaturization that allows them to fulfill their promises.

Maybe they have a machine that eats money and shits out miracles.

Until I see a viable product myself, I will continue to stand my ground and say that the folks who invested their hundreds of millions of dollars into this company might want to start asking questions and demanding results. You might also want to hire some experts who can advise you on how technology works. You obviously need some guidance.

And if you are an investor looking for a fun VR/AR/MR company to dump millions of dollars into, I know a great blog/podcast website that could be the next big thing. Just click the Patreon button below and invest away!

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