Microsoft unveils $3,500 HoloLens 2 at MWC 2019. Here’s what you need to know

When I first saw Microsoft’s HoloLens in 2015, it was clearly something new, and different — I found it pretty damn mind-bending. HoloLens was a fascinating mixed reality headset that overlaid VR images on top of the real world in new, high-tech ways and offered a crazy glimpse of the future. At the MWC 2019 conference in Barcelona Sunday night, the company unveiled the next generation version of the device. I was ready to be wowed.

“It’s the next chapter in our journey — say hello to HoloLens 2,” said Alex Kipman, inventor of the device and a technical fellow in Microsoft’s Cloud and AI group. But is it all that exciting?

The basics of the device look similar to earlier models. It’s a headset similar to the virtual reality headsets you’ve become familiar with, from companies like HTC and Samsung and Oculus. But Microsoft says it has put effort into making interaction with the device simpler, to help it blend into the background and become less obtrusive. It “works in a more human way,” the company explained, thanks to a slew of improvements.

For starters, it recognizes the user through the Windows Hello iris recognition system, and it recognizes your hands, creating fully articulated representations of them in the 3D virtual world. The device is also substantially lighter: The entire front is made of carbon fiber, and Microsoft changed around how the weight is distributed, more than tripling the comfort, it claims. Oh, and the design team rethought the look and feel of the product too, testing it on thousands of different heads, from people of all genders, races, and sizes, Microsoft says.

Technologically, it’s improved as well. HoloLens 2 includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 chip, the same technology powering most flagship phones on the market. And it more than doubles the field of view while maintain 47 pixels per degree of sight.

“This is the equivalent of moving from a 720p TV to a 2K TV — for each of your eyes,” Kipman said.

Microsoft didn’t offer details on the technology beyond that, however, and has yet to offer pricing or release information about the new HoloLens 2. jYet Kipman was emphatic that it moves the needle from earlier generations: “For the first time, you’re going to feel what it feels like to touch a hologram, to interact with a hologram and to play with it, almost where you forget that this is a piece of digital content you’re looking at as opposed to it just existing in the real world.”

To showcase the power of the HoloLens 2, the company brought a number of business partners on stage. These included companies that make industrial parts as well as more consumer centric companies — and from the gaming side, Tim Sweeney from Epic Games.

“I believe that AR is going to be the primary platform of the future, and it will have an intimate role in our lives,” he said. “Epic will fully support Microsoft’s HoloLens model,” he added. Epic is bringing it to all developers in May, he said.

This clearly isn’t a consumer product. At earlier product events for the HoloLens, Microsoft has stressed gaming and the potential of the device to shape consumer interactions with tech. But lately, it’s been all only about business. And businesses investigating the product will certainly be curious about Microsoft’s philosophy for software.

“We believe in an open app store model,” Kipman said. Although companies will have the power to create their own app stores, of course. “Principle 2: We believe in an open web browsing model.” The Edge browser will exist, but companies will be able to include their own — including native Firefox, which will come out of the box. Finally, the company believes in an open API model, he added.

HoloLens will be available for $125 per month. The cost for the enterprise package is being reduced from $5,000 to $3,000, Microsoft said at the event — a change developers will certainly appreciate. But in exclusive previews, CNET, The Verge, and Wired all said the price was $3,500, an increase from the cost of the initial developer release. Developers can place orders immediately. Microsoft did not say when HoloLens 2 would be released.


The original story, replete with all the rumors and hints we have gathered, is below. 

Release date and price

microsoft celebrates hololens highlighting mixed reality

We won’t need to wait long for firm announcements from Microsoft about the HoloLens 2 and just what it’s going to look like. Alex Kipman, who’s in charge of the HoloLens project, sent out media invites for a press conference with him and CEO Satya Nadella, just ahead of the Mobile World Congress event on February 24.

The name “HoloLens” is not specifically mentioned in any of this content, but .. well, it’s easy to infer a lot from how this was announced and who it comes from. The lack of specific names could indicate that the next generation HoloLens may have different trademarking involved, or something else that Microsoft is saving as a surprise.

As for price, the HoloLens 2 won’t be cheap. The original developer edition costs $3,000, while the “commercial suite” starts at $5,000. We would expect the sequel to be a similar ballpark, but we won’t know for sure until MWC.

New teaser video released

Along with the invites to a special event, Kipman also released a quick teaser video. This video does not explicitly show the HoloLens. As we noted, it actually looks like the marketing material for previous Surface devices, with an elemental style including melting metals and twining fibers.

So, what’s this all about? Well, it seems to indicate a focus on hardware updates, specifically when it comes to form and possibly processing power. It could indicate, for example, an upgrade to carbon fiber materials to make the headset more lightweight and comfortable. Of course, with videos like these it’s hard to tell exactly what they mean, but it does indicate that Microsoft is unveiling a new approach to the HoloLens — and is trying to hype people up.

A.I. and new sensors

Ford hololens

Microsoft has already noted that the new HoloLens technology will include advanced A.I. tech. The Microsoft Research team specifically showed off a new HPU (holographic processing unit) at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference of 2017.

This new chip includes an A.I. co-processor that will help interpret the images that the HoloLens is “seeing” more accurately, which allows for better overlays and much faster response time (otherwise, data might have to be sent to the cloud for analysis, which would take much longer). The A.I. solution is so good it can recognize individual parts of the human hand while it’s moving — something important for, as an example, helping Navy soldiers practice loading armaments. This appears to borrow technology both from Microsoft’s Azure A.I. and from the now largely defunct Kinect gaming sensor.

The A.I. co-processor will also apparently be used to help with advanced speech recognition, which indicates that audio commands, interpretation, and even environmental sounds will be a bigger part of the next HoloLens experience.

New patent news points to a streamlined product

Hololens Patent Image

A Microsoft patent has also been discovered that clearly details plans for an upgraded HoloLens. According to these plans, the HoloLens will be used a single system for both mapping the real-world terrain while tracking objects that terrain and projecting CG images on top of that terrain.

This is important for a couple different reasons. First, it allows Microsoft to save room and make the HoloLens more compact — or at least make room for other hardware. Second, it helps increase the accuracy for harder tasks like following a bouncing ball or sensing depth in a complex environment (like a forest). Third, it’s quite possible that this will help lower the price of the HoloLens, which is badly needed: Commercially, the first HoloLens costs a whopping $5,000 to buy as a consumer. You can bet Microsoft wants to get that price down a bit if it wants to appeal at all to gamers and other individual buyers.

A brand new processor

Microsoft HoloLens front angle
Matt Smith/Digital Trends

We already mentioned the A.I. co-processor that’s sure to be included in the HoloLens 2, but it also looks like the primary processor could also see a significant change. While early rumors suggested that the HoloLens would use the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, we now expect them to pick the Snapdragon 850 chip or something very similar.

These ARM-based chips are ideal for augmented reality applications, but it would be a shift from the Intel Atom CPU that the original HoloLens uses. However, we do expect Microsoft to use Windows Core OS for operation.hololens 2 news roundup microsoft at mwc 2019

Product Review

It's a shame the U.S. banned Huawei. The new Honor 20 Pro is a kick-ass phone

Where does Honor go after the Honor View 20, the best device it has ever made? The answer is the Honor 20 Pro, which takes what made the View 20 great, and then improves on it by adding more camera lenses and shrinking the size.

Motorola One Vision vs. Nokia 7.1: Which is the best budget phone for you?

If you're trying to decide whether the Motorola One Vision or the Nokia 7.1 would be a better buy, then we've got you covered with this comparison. Find out exactly what sets these Android phones apart and which is best for you.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

New Sony patents could be PlayStation’s answer to Google Stadia

Google Stadia will be attempting to cut into the home gaming console pie but one of its competitors may already have an answer for the game streaming platform. A new Sony patent shows what could be the PlayStation spin on streaming.

The Razer Core X Chroma is the best external GPU you can buy

The third entry in Razer's lineup of external graphics card enclosures, the Core X Chroma, brings together the best of its previous options in a single package. With RGB lighting and extra USB ports, is this the best you can buy?

Google recalls Titan Security Key due to hijack risk

Google is offering a free replacement for the Bluetooth Low Energy version of the Titan Security Key. A misconfiguration was discovered in the device, though hackers looking to exploit the vulnerability will find it difficult to do so.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Insect drones and kinetic sculpture robots

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

Whether you want to edit, sign, or append, PDFs, these are the best PDF editors

While there are plenty of PDF editor options online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or operating system.

Give your PC a new lease on life by upgrading its core components

Older PCs can still be great tools for work and play, they just need a little upgrade now and then. Here are the best upgrades you can make to your PC to make it feel fresh and fast once again.

The best software for filing your taxes — because you can never be too early

The best tax software offers a variety of services for saving money, completing your taxes at top speed, or getting advice for more complex tax scenarios that you haven't had to deal with before.

Through the wire, to the limit, to the wall: The 5 best ethernet cables

While our world may be transitioning to wireless connectivity, Ethernet connections are still faster and less prone to lag times than traditional Wi-Fi networks. Here are five of the best Ethernet cables you can buy.

Your amazing PC rig needs an amazing computer case. These are the very best

There's an incredible variety of PC cases on the market, but a few stand above the rest. Any of our five best computer cases will make your desktop look and work great, no matter what your budget is.
Emerging Tech

How Super Mario, Magic: The Gathering, and PowerPoint are low-key supercomputers

What if the creators of Super Mario World, PowerPoint, and even Magic: The Gathering had accidentally created tools hiding a general-purpose computer in plain sight? Turns out they have.

Yes, Google tracks and collects your online purchases through Gmail. But why?

Google has been tracking your purchase history and while the company says that the tracking is part of an effort to help you keep track of your purchases, there are indications that there might be other, less clear motives for doing so.