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Microsoft announces HoloLens 2, with a Snapdragon 850 and a larger field of view

Today is the day that many have been waiting for. Over four years after Microsoft first unveiled the concept of HoloLens and nearly three years after it started shipping, the company introduced HoloLens 2 today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

As we originally reported back in December, the untethered holographic headset includes a Snapdragon 850, but surprisingly, it does not include 4G LTE. Microsoft decided on a version of the ARM64 chipset that does not have a cellular modem. On top of that, it has a new Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) with an AI coprocessor.

That's why it didn't use Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR1 platform, which is actually built for mixed reality. Microsoft really only needs the CPU and the GPU from the chipset, as the mixed reality components are custom-made by the firm.

The time-of-flight (TOF) sensors used are the same that are found in Azure Kinect, which was announced at Build last year. Microsoft did say at the time that it would be in the next HoloLens, and here we are.

Microsoft focused on three things for its second-generation augmented reality (AR) headset. For one thing, it wanted to decrease the time to wake the device. That's something that comes from the ARM64 chipset. The Snapdragon 850 uses big.LITTLE architecture, which means that it has powerful cores for tasks that require them, and more efficient cores that use very little power when possible. When the device is asleep, it can wake instantly because it can perform those background tasks without sucking down power.

Another focus was to make it more comfortable. As you can see from the images, it's a smaller and lighter headset than before. The front of the device is made of carbon fiber to make it lighter, and Microsoft says that it tripled the comfort of the headset, although it's not clear what metrics it used.

All of that is done while improving the battery as well. The Snapdragon 850 is much more power-efficient than the Intel Atom that was in the original generation model. Combined with Windows Core OS, which sheds the legacy components of Windows 10, it should do much better than before.

Finally, the third thing that the team focused on is that it should be more immersive. Probably the largest complaint about the last HoloLens was the limited field of view, so it wasn't very immersive at all. Naturally, the field of view was one of the most important improvements to make. Microsoft says that the field of view is twice as large as before, while maintaining 47 pixels per degree of sight, using two 2K displays.

Unfortunately for those that remember the Project X-Ray demos from a few years ago where robots came through the walls and you had to shoot them down, HoloLens 2 is a business device, and that was expected. It's very focused on Dynamics 365, with apps like Remote Assist, which allows someone to remotely draw on top of the real world to help you with something. That doesn't mean that a consumer model won't arrive down the line; in fact, it probably will, but not soon.

Microsoft also introduced the HoloLens Customization Program, understanding that different businesses might have different needs in terms of design. Trimble made a hard hat design with HoloLens 2.

HoloLens 2 costs $3,500, which is more inexpensive than the original commercial unit, which cost $5,000.

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