Quick Review: Early Experiences of HoloLens

Microsoft HoloLens

I have been using augmented reality headsets since about 2006 and whenever another one comes out I am excited and then later become disappointed. As was the case with the Epson BT-200 and Google Glass (not real augmented reality) both of which I have either owned or used. In most cases these devices either failed in terms of decent quality graphics, had a bad display (so any lighting washed out what was on display) or simply had no decent apps which showed off what you could do. Granted the Epson is a device from a few years ago but it could have been so much better, but sadly it wasn’t. So it was with a similar mindset that I tried HoloLens when we received it at work in December 2016.  Since then we have demonstrated it to many members of the public (using the supplied game) and also built some early software on it for a large European project. So it is fair to say we have spent some time with it. With this in mind I have decided to put together a very quick list of good, bad and ugly points – these will no doubt grow with time. Sorry in advance to Epson, I know you have brought out better equipment but for now we only compared the HoloLens against your rather aging BT-200. I will however happily review your new augmented reality platforms if you send me some to try!

Ok, a clearly faked image but the quality of the display is impressive. Image creative commons: Microsoft.

The good

  • By far the best display I have seen on a “consumer” and publicly available AR system. The colours remain vivid even under light. See the faked image above, which perhaps a bit over the top is not as far from reality as it may seem.
  • Gesture recognition, for example shooting the robots by pinching your fingers in the supplied game works almost perfectly – but you do need to get used to where to hold your hand.
  • It is easy to use and works out of the box with almost no problem.
  • Developing software in Unity is not difficult.
  • Calibrating room layouts so that you can position and interact with content works very well and is extremely easy; by far the best I can come across so far.
  • Audio is supplied through some built-in speakers which work very well and it is certainly better than having to use headphones – which would also block out the surrounding environment.
  • Not very expensive for what you get! It is about €3500 so not too cheap either.
  • Beats waving a phone or tablet around in order to experience augmented reality.

The Bad

  • The headset is a bit bulky, but it is early days! The Epson is smaller and lighter but worse in all other respects. That said it is not a major issue.
  • Battery life can be a bit limiting, we got about 90 minutes to 2 hours out of it.
  • Apparently there is a limit of 5 functioning headsets in any single space due to the underlying technologies used.
  • We are told it is not ideal for outdoor usage, but as yet we have not tested this point.
  • There are cheaper augmented reality options, but the view from the public when we let them try both was “no way Epson!”. HoloLens wins outright here even if it is far more expensive, sorry Epson BT-200. The public simply loved HoloLens.
  • Unavoidable really but when you calibrate the device it is for you! While you can use the same calibration etc with other people it will not work as well. This is designed and supplied as a highly personal and monogamous piece of equipment. That said it works well enough across different people when shared if everyone is of a similar height. I need to investigate this issue more, so more details later.

The Ugly

  • The field of view is simply too small for many tasks. For basic games where it does not matter it is perfectly ok but for the specific work we undertake it is not ideal. The result is that the area in which you can see augmentations is too small, which is not so good really if peripheral vision is an important part of your experiences or where really immersive experiences are involved.

This is not a headset it’s part of an eco-system

Microsoft is no namby-pamby start-up, in reality while you may buy HoloLens as it is cool,  it does form part of Microsoft’s eco-system. This means over time I expect the whole system to be part of how you use your everyday applications, smart home devices (read Internet of Things) and in general interact with the world around you. Microsoft has a team of very talented research and development engineers so it is only a matter of time before they (hopefully) come out with some really killer applications for HoloLens!

Summary

Does the above review seem negative? Well it shouldn’t this is an excellent piece of kit and while there are some limitations Microsoft has done an excellent job. I would say it is by far their best product in years and I don’t mean that as in everything else they did was bad. Rather this is just really cool! Even some of my more cynical colleagues were blown away by it!

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Myeloma UK – Cancer Charity

Please support Myeloma UK, a charity which provides support services to those suffering from this blood based cancer.

Myeloma UK

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Brexit: Not about Jobs for British Workers – Andrea Leadsom

‘Leadsom said investment in improving productivity with technology would be part of the answer: “As I’ve travelled the UK, I’ve seen a whole raft of new technologies that complement the workforce.” She added there were “large number of farmers that are yet to seize these opportunities”.’ (Source: Guardian)

UK farmers are saying that a combination of the crashing pound and lack of clarity on residency rights are discouraging EU migrants from working on farms. In turn they say this will lead to food rotting in the fields. At face value the lack of EU migrants working on UK farms should open the door for UK nationals to work in the fields but as the article in the Guardian linked above indicates, so far finding British workers to fill the gaps has been somewhat problematic.

I could have sworn that many UK politicians said that one reason for Brexit was that British jobs should be for British workers, now it would seem this is not the case. Indeed Amber Rudd went as far as to threaten employers who retained foreign staff after Brexit with naming and shaming and no doubt other things as well. Now it seems there never really was any intention of providing jobs for native Brits as the policy is to encourage the use of new technologies to reduce the need for workers! The quote from Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for the Environment has made this a clear priority (see the quote above from the Guardian).

Well done Brexiteers, not only will you end up kicking out all the foreign people in the UK (or have them thrown into detention centres, 3,400+ EU nationals have suffered that fate) but now you won’t actually get any jobs yourselves as you are either too lazy, too useless or indeed will be replaced by a machine anyway… So winners all round then!

The question is, if the farm machinery is made abroad will those farms be named and shamed? Would seem only fair! Lets ask Amber!

 

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UK Conservative Party Linked to the Kremlin (and assorted other nasties)

In the few short months since Brexit, which we were told would be a gift to Vladimir Putin it is now becoming clear that the British Conservative Party has strong links with the Kremlin. Which may also help explain why Russian aircraft are given free tours when they enter UK airspace, er sorry are escorted out of UK territory.

According to The Times a number of senior Conservative MPs and councilors have been writing nice things about the Kremlin’s policy in among other areas Crimea and Syria. Many also received direct benefits or benefits -in-kind. One who benefited was John Redwood (one of Britain’s leading Brexiters) who according to the UK Register of MPs interests had some connections in the Russia direction. Not that there is anything wrong with that. When asked about the money he denied he knew of it’s origin. Perhaps we should not be overly surprised of his naivety or stupidity as when he was the Secretary of State for Wales he famously was unable to sing the Welsh National Anthem.

The Conservative Party has never received any money itself from bad sources although one of it’s previous fund raisers Sir Brian Wyldbore-Smith (yes that is his name) was involved in raising funds from interesting sources. Indeed newspaper articles from the 90s reveal a culture of secret donations but nothing illegal of course.

We should not think of course that there is any link between the increased interest in working towards a trade deal with Russia or in intelligence sharing and the incentives given to leading politicians.

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Brexit Begins to Bite

While it will be sometime until the full effects of Brexit become clear, a picture is now emerging of how people are hedging their bets and of rising prices. A summary of the main impacts are listed below:

  • The average time to sell a property has increased significantly in London and the South East of England, while areas such as Manchester continue to do well (Source: The Times 17-2-2017).
  • Properties in some areas are also now being offered at a discount in order to sell them (Source: The Times 17-2-2017). Property prices and trades are a key driver of the UK economy.
  • Factory import prices rose at their fastest rate for many years – this relates to the cost of goods that are imported in order to manufacture goods in the UK.
  • UK fuel prices rose 16.1% in January, in part due to the falling pound (Source: BBC).
  • The falling pound (one perhaps good part of Brexit, as it was always overvalued) this means that UK exports are now far cheaper. This has led a boom in exports in 2016, but with access to the single market off the table it remains to be seen how long that will last. Also reports are now that exports are falling (Source: Guardian)
  • Retail spending (a major part of the UK economy) has fallen at its highest rate since 2013. If this continues to contract then the UK could enter a recession. (Source: BBC).
  • Overall inflation is now 1.8% up from the past and is set to hit in excess of 2.5%-4% according to predictions.
  • Leading companies such as Apple and Microsoft have already started to indicate that prices will rise, with Microsoft increasing UK prices by 22%.

I will concede that a falling pound may in the long term be a good thing for British industry and jobs but this can only be the case if manufacturers are able to source their parts/inputs from other British companies. Otherwise costs will rise and may cancel out all or most of the competitive advantage which has been gained. A spike in import costs may also provide a required jolt to the general population as well the UK has never really had meaningful trade surpluses in over 30 years and constantly runs a trade and Government deficit worse than Greece.

Related Topics

  • The UK Government has refused to increase NHS spending due to underlying economic issues, the net result is according to a recent report around 30,000 excess deaths in hospitals in 2015. The worst in 50 years (Source: The Mirror). Not the fault of Brexit but if funding continues to be relatively static or falls then these death rates will probably increase. As we have been warned that there will be bumps ahead in the economy we should expect further cuts, also if the cost of importing medicines and equipment rises it will only get worse. Add to that the desire to drive out foreigners who work in the NHS, again things are hardly going to get better.
  • Britain still has an appalling fuel poverty death rate, with 40,000 people estimated to be dying each year due to not being able to pay their bills (Source: The Telegraph). As noted above fuel costs recently rose by 16.1%, so for many the choice of whether to heat their home is now a life or death decision.

It should be kept in mind that the Conservative Party is not averse to brutal “social cleansing” policies which suit their own electoral means. In the 1980s housing policy in Westminster City Council was used to increase the number of Conservative voters. In the end the then Leader, Dame Shirley Porter was fined 42m UKP. Despite being an heiress to the Tesco supermarket chain founders she claimed to have only 300,000 UKP in assets. In the end she agreed to pay 12.3m UKP in 2004. The money magically appeared or perhaps her wealth grew due to sound financial management during this period. (Sources: Wikipedia , Telegraph). The said Tory Council leader decided to move to Israel where she now lives. It should be noted similar policies have started to re-emerge in in London since 2010.

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Was “Terrorist Cash” Linked to the pro-Brexit Campaign?

The Open Democracy website reports that the Electoral Commission is investigating Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) ability to spend what appears to be in the region of £250k on pro-Brexit campaigns; given that in 2015 the party reported a total income of little more than £500k it is a surprisingly large amount. It is worth noting that unlike mainland-UK political parties, those based in Northern Ireland do not need to declare where there money came from. This is perhaps not a surprise given (that in the interests of fairness) the citizens good state of New York were famous for donating to charities connected to the IRA. I guess when all sides face potentially inconvenient stories about where their money came from it is best to pass a law which exempts all sides. The Democratic Unionist Party is of course no stranger to financial scandals, having had more than it’s fair share of issues with loans and dodgy environmental schemes in recent years. Indeed the Northern Irish Assembly recently collapsed due to corruption allegations surrounding the Democratic Unionists.

Over the weekend and since the first draft of this article was written the DUP have indicated that they have provided the names of the  donors to the Electoral Commission but are so far refusing to say exactly who was kind enough to donate the funds. In a moment of honesty Aaron Banks who famously funded the unofficial Leave campaign alleges that the DUP had previously demanded money from his team in exchange for supporting them. Banks quite rightfully turned this down.

It is worth noting that many leading Brexit politicians also received money to support the leaving of the EU from wait for it, the campaigns themselves. So while the good people of UK who may have legitimately believed in leaving the EU donated some of their hard earned cash to these campaigns their money was being used to pay some of the largest blood sucking lying parasites in recent British political history.

The sources for Brexit funding and in-direct support have also come under increased scrutiny recently, especially given that many leading lights in the UK Conservative Party have accidentally taken money from Russian backed organisations (Source: The Times). Some have even gone as far as to be quite positive of Russia’s invasion of Crimea and have been talking up closer economic ties with Russia post-Brexit. Meanwhile across the English channel, Russian media outlets are now on the rise in France and are supporting Le Pen. Allegations have also been made of strong links between the BNP (British National Party) and leading Northern Irish Unionist politicians.

If the Democratic Unionist Party does not name who provided it’s funding for Brexit and indeed in general then we will only have to assume (perhaps wrongly) that it continues to receive funding from lapsed terrorists and Russia.

For more information on the DUP please check out the following links:

Guy Debord’s Cat (a blog)

Wikipedia

For the record I have no opinion on whether Northern Ireland should be part of the UK or the Republic of  Ireland. That is a decision for the people of Northern Ireland.

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