Microsoft launches HoloLens 2 at $3500 – but the real power is in the cloud-connected add-ons

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

MWC19 Microsoft has announced the launch of HoloLens 2 at MWC Barcelona, with the augmented reality (AR) headset being described by the company as an 'important milestone.'

The headset, which will be available later this year at a price of $3500,  has been launched with focus on three specific areas of improvement; immersion, comfort, and time-to-value. HoloLens 2 has a more than doubled field of view combined with holographic density of 47 pixels per degree of sight, alongside eye-tracking sensors and enterprise-grade authentication.

In terms of comfort, the new headset promises a more balanced centre of gravity and greater thermal management. Users can keep their glasses on when using the new headset, with Microsoft claiming it has tripled measurable comfort and ergonomics of the device.

"Building on the unique capabilities of the original HoloLens, HoloLens 2 is the ultimate intelligent edge device," wrote Julia White, Microsoft Azure corporate vice president, in a blog post. "And when coupled with existing and new Azure services, HoloLens 2 becomes even more capable, right out of the box."

This was by no means the only announcement Microsoft made in this arena – and again focuses on a rounded, 'intelligent edge' story. Of these, the most interesting was Azure Mixed Reality Services, which aim to 'help every developer and every business build cross-platform, contextual and enterprise-grade mixed reality applications.' These include Azure Spatial Anchors, to create apps to map, designate and recall precise points of interest accessible across HoloLens, iOS and Android devicecs, and Azure Remote Rendering, providing high-quality 3D content in the cloud and streaming it to edge devices.

This is the particular selling point which Microsoft will build upon, according to Paul Miller, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "There's a lot that the new HoloLens can do on its own, but the real power comes when HoloLens – a capable edge computer in its own right – is connected to the cloud," said Miller.

"Cloud-based services like Remote Rendering substantially increase the speed and resolution of mixed reality models and simulations. The Spatial Anchors service makes it easier to collaborate in mixed reality, with teams able to work together in a single virtual space," added Miller. "In combination with Microsoft's existing Azure Digital Twins service, HoloLens makes it easier to deliver relevant data from IoT sensors to the point of need – the field service engineer standing in front of a faulty machine.

"The hardware for Microsoft's new HoloLens is impressive, delivering a device that is lighter and more powerful, but also easier for first-line workers to wear and use."

You can see the demo video for HoloLens 2 below:

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