At Build 2020, Microsoft has announced a number of new features for its HoloLens 2 Mixed Reality headset, as well as plans to launch in new markets around the globe. HoloLens 2 will also be getting 5G dongle support, plus a new dark mode and voice commands through a future software update, Microsoft announced on March 19.
According to Microsoft, the rollout of the headset to additional markets builds on the requests and feedback of customers who have been using the headset. It soon will be coming to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, and 11 other countries.
“Because of the strong adoption that we’re seeing, we’re going to drive this expansion to markets this fall. We’ve had a lot of requests. Folks have done a lot of things with HoloLens in markets where it’s not available, so we’re responding to customers,” said Greg Sulivan, director for Windows Mixed Reality, in an interview with Digital Trends.
Microsoft says HoloLens 2 will also be available through the Microsoft store in summer 2020. It still will remain a commercial device, however, and still isn’t designed for gaming or the average person who buys a Surface or Windows PC. This availability in stores is instead designed to make it easier for developers to get the headset into their hands, without going through the company’s typical sales teams. The cost is $3,500 per device, which is unchanged.
“We’re not positioning it as a consumer device, but we did want to make this as an additional channel for customers that don’t have a direct relationship with Microsoft,” Sulivan told us.
HoloLens 2 will also be getting some new software features, which will be part of Windows Holographic version 2004, the next major version of Windows Holographic launching with the Windows 10 May 2020 Update. The update is themed towards improving device management, security, performance, and the user experience.
Under the hood, these include support for the deployment service Windows Autopilot and improvements to hand tracking. For the end user, there’s also a new dark mode theme as the default for the operating system. Other new aspects include support for new voice commands to shut down the device, increase brightness, check IP addresses, take a photo, and video recording, to name a few. There’s even new support for 5G through tethering and USB Ethernet dongles.
“We’re excited about this because … one of the killer applications for 5G and the latency and bandwidth movements is mixed reality. When you’re talking about 3D content and streaming Azure remote rending images, more bandwidth is good,” Sulivan told Digital Trends.
Microsoft also announced that the Azure Spatial Anchors service, which lets developers build cross-platform mixed reality applications with spatial concepts, is also becoming generally available. The company will launch a public preview of Azure Remote rendering, which Sullivan tells us is the next step toward it becoming generally available.
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