Hands on: Microsoft HoloLens review

The future of computing? HoloLens sure feels like it

What is a hands on review?
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What follows are our impressions of HoloLens following demonstrations provided through a more recent visit by Volvo to techradar headquarters, penned by Duncan Bell, and during E3 2015, penned by Nick Pino, respectively.

Volvo puts HoloLens to work

The $3,000 HoloLens has another new demonstration: a virtual car showroom for Volvo. Yes, that sounds boring, but it's actually an impressive showcase for what Microsoft's "mixed reality" headset can do – and what it can't do.

HoloLens

First up, while the hardware didn't appear to have been updated since Build 2015, I found it comfortable to wear, at least for the 15 minutes that the demo lasted. This may very well be because, with a fairly prominent – but not huge – nose and shaved head, I have the optimal cranium for HoloLens.

I also wear glasses, and these fitted easily enough under the headset.

Read more: Microsoft Surface Headphones

The virtual cars that appeared before my eyes were genuinely impressive, both at miniature, tabletop size and real-to-life car size. They looked like CGI and weren't photo realistic, but they were "real" enough to impress.

HoloLens

One thing that hadn't changed, and by all accounts never will, is that the visuals were in a "box" hanging in front of my eyes rather than filling my whole field of vision. According to HoloLens senior director Scott Erickson, increasing the field of view would make it VR rather than mixed reality, and therefore too difficult to walk around in. Of course, there could also be technical reasons why they can't do this.

The box is problematic in that, as you move closer to holograms, the edges of them literally sheer off until you step back, which is quite jarring. On the other hand, because the "unreal" space is so clearly defined and limited meant I could walk around Microsoft's space, which included chairs, tables and a stage, without ever fearing I might face plant.

HoloLens

HoloLens and Halo make a fine pairing

We've had a glimpse at the potential for HoloLens in gaming with an immersive – though impractical – briefing for Halo 5: Guardians for Xbox One. From the voice of Jennifer Hale to a model of a UNSC Leviathan Supercarrier and Spartan Captain Sarah Palmer, the demo helped prepare me for a 12-on-12 battle that, it should be noted, my team won by a landslide.

One negative to come out of the showing was to learn that the viewer's limited field of view isn't likely to get much better anytime soon. While the hardware isn't final, said HoloLens lead Kudo Tsunoda, the field of view, which feels like looking through a mobile computer monitor, won't be "hugely, noticeably different either."

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.