Microsoft got a huge lead in the augmented reality, or mixed reality rather, market, showing off how its HoloLens and Windows Holographic, now Windows Mixed Reality, system could prove to be more practical and useful than virtual reality. It may have, however, rested far too long on its laurels and now a big competitor is just around the corner. That is, perhaps, why the tech giant is suddenly picking up the pace for version 2 of its HoloLens hardware, which might make a big departure from its predecessor.
Impressive as the experience and potential might be, the HoloLens is unmistakably just a very expensive prototype. It was particularly plagued by performance and battery life complaints. And Microsoft will supposedly address both by switching processors.
The first HoloLens ran on an Intel Cherry Trail processor, which was a bragging point for the chip maker. But according to Windows Central’s sources, the HoloLens 2, codenamed “Sydney”, will, instead, run on a still unspecified ARM chip. This is yet another blow to Intel, whose processors are being driven out of the mobile and embedded market. Promising more hours of battery life, the switch to ARM most likely builds upon Microsoft’s work on an always-connected Windows experience. Thus, it won’t be surprising if the HoloLens would run on a Snapdragon processor.
That said, it won’t be running Windows 10 on ARM, at least not in its pristine form. Those same sources say that the HoloLens 2 will use a custom version of Windows 10 based on the still unconfirmed modular Windows Core OS. It will also make use of the modular and adaptable CShell (Composable Shell) for its user interface. How different it will be from the current Windows Holographic/Mixed Reality UI is still something to be seen.
Although it could be argued that AR/MR makes for a better general-purpose computing experience, its adoption is so far hobbled by the lack of commercial devices. Even Microsoft has switched to pushing out VR headsets under the Windows Mixed Reality banner. The much-delayed launch of the Magic Leap headset later this year could give the AR market a nudge, followed by the HoloLens 2’s expected launch early next year.