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article imageMicrosoft might have solved the HoloLens' biggest issue

By James Walker     Oct 20, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft may have solved one of the biggest limitations with its HoloLens headset. Since its first unveiling, the device has suffered from a restricted field of view. A patent filing suggests a feasible way to increase the range has been developed.
The HoloLens has a very narrow field of view of just 35-degrees. This creates a problem for the device since mixed reality has to fill your view if it's to be truly immersive. The current HoloLens headset only places holograms in a small letterbox at the centre of your vision, leaving the periphery empty and 3D objects conspicuously clipped.
The holographic technologies used by the headset have a restricted working range. The underlying physics that makes the HoloLens possible has prevented the field of view from being expanded, a situation Microsoft has said isn't likely to change. As spotted by MSPoweruser, Microsoft may now have found a way to bypass the technical issues, opening the door to a more immersive HoloLens.
A trick of the light
The technique involves innovative splitting of the light entering the waveguide within the headset. For the light to internally reflect inside the waveguide, it cannot exit at an angle any greater than 35-degrees. Rather than address this fixed limitation, Microsoft has found a way to make creative use of it.
The mechanism described in the patent filing explains how light could be split as it enters the waveguide. This would create two distinct rays which individually travel through and exit the waveguide. Although each one is still subject to the 35-degree limit, when they're recombined the image seen by the user could effectively span 70-degrees.
Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens
The next big step in mixed reality?
Doubling the usable field of view would be a significant step forward. While it's still some way off the 110-degrees of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the wider space to display holograms in would create more convincing immersion and give users a larger canvas. The patent also notes that larger viewports up to 90-degrees could be possible "through proper design" of the headset.
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Now that HoloLens is being deployed in more commercial settings, the need for a larger field of view is likely to become apparent. A car designer could wish to see larger portions of their vehicle close-up, allowing them to look at how a trim component aligns with the rest of the bodywork. Similarly, a home user playing a game would benefit from having objects appear in a wider swathe of their vision.
The patent filing suggests the next-generation version of HoloLens could address these limitations. Microsoft is understood to be developing the device on an extended timeframe, intending to launch a substantially revised headset in 2019. The company's already revealed some of the improved hardware, including a dedicated chip for on-device AI processing.
More about Microsoft, hololens, hololens 2, mixed reality, future tech
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