Augmented Reality enables intuitive interaction with spatial data by putting it where it matters—in the field. When it comes to head-mounted Augmented Reality, there are two major companies we develop for: HoloLens and Magic Leap.
Both the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap are wearable computers—transparent glasses that project augmented models and scan the 3D space. Each has unique capabilities and limitations that help inform how we use them with our architecture and construction clients.
If you’re curious about how these devices compare to one another and how you might expect to use them on your projects, read on.
HoloLens Form vs. Magic Leap Form
First—form factor and visual experience.
Where you put the computing power makes a difference in the feel of the device and in the visual experience.
HoloLens puts the power between your eyes—with the thickness of the HoloLens headgear accounting for the width of its small but mighty Microsoft computer.
HoloLens is completely wireless—and at 3 years old its computer is still surprisingly small and efficient. Unfortunately what is also small is the field of view.
This means clipping of augmented models at the corners, breaking the sense of full immersion. We expect the HoloLens 2 to improve the field of view.
The HoloLens fit is surprisingly comfortable. And because it’s wireless, designed such that you can keep your glasses on, and certified as construction safety glasses—it’s easily passed between members of a construction team.
Magic Leap, on the other hand, is wired, with a belt-computer “light pack” that attaches to the headset “light wear”. This makes the Magic Leap headwear much lighter on the head, and capable of a wider field of view.
Both devices showed good detail in the 3D objects we could place and both performed similarly under real-world lightning. Outdoor use is problematic for both devices—which is why we make custom shades for construction job site visibility.
Augmented Reality for Job-site Scanning
Both The HoloLens and Magic Leap’s scanning capabilities make them a rad choice for construction. Scanning the real world and capturing the scan allows for historical “4D” job site visualization.
Magic Leap is currently better at real-world scanning, but again, it’s three years newer. We anticipate that Hololens 2 will improve its scanning capabilities. The scanning hardware is there, it’s just a matter of developing the software tools. We expect job-site scanning to become as simple as walking around with your hard hat and safety glasses.
Comfort, Controller, and Inputs
Both the HoloLens and Magic Leap are relatively light and easy enough to wear for the tasks we are asking of it. True, neither device is ready for prolonged use as Augmented Reality glasses can eventually cause eye strain.
Then again—prolonged use isn’t usually what our team is going for when we design for Augmented Reality. In a construction context, we want the data accessible and actionable. Jobs are done faster and better with a friendly user interface. Get in and get out.
Inputs are a major point of interest for us as we focus on user experience.
For many reasons, we like the controller of the Magic Leap. Having tactile, haptic feedback of buttons can be grounding in a virtual experience, and the Magic Leap’s simple controller provides just that. Plus we have a ton of freedom to customize user interfaces on the Magic Leap.
HoloLens, on the other hand, requires users to wave their hands and pinch their fingers in the air like magical wizards. It’s technically called airtapping, and we hate it.
In our AR developer’s words: “I will never get someone to ‘airtap’ for more than 5 minutes.” Since the interactivity with the Hololens inputs is at a raw, basic code level, Microsoft has made it nearly impossible to change the user interface. Unfortunately, it’s not something we expect to improve with Hololens 2.
Yet, despite the infuriating ‘airtap’ input, we still plan to use HoloLens it in construction projects. The fact that it can be worn anywhere, at all times on the jobsite is critical, and the limitations in the airtap input in the HoloLens are less of a problem in construction because your hands are busy with the real world.
Magic Leap Development and HoloLens Development
We will tend to use HoloLens on Construction and the Magic Leap for augmentation of architectural mockups. Whether its design options or viewing IoT sensor data—visualization is the low hanging fruit of AR development.
We’re focusing our research and development efforts on using these headmounted computers as tools that go beyond mere visualization. Jobsite scanning and tools for facilities managers are in our sights. The hardware is there, it’s just a matter of building easy-to-use tools.
To learn more about Augmented Reality and how we can implement it into your next project, subscribe to our newsletter, or shoot us an email to get a project started.