Life at a Start-up : Exploring the Microsoft HoloLens

Over the last week we have been working on something quite exciting. At BuyingButler and RightIndem we pride ourselves on being a very technology focused company, and we love looking to see where we can use the latest technology to solve real problems. We have been doing just that with Microsoft new HoloLens Mixed Reality headset.

On Thursday 12th Jan 2017 we had a good friend and fellow Pluralsight author Lars Klint fly over to the UK for the NDC London conference. Before the conference he came up to Nottingham  for a couple of days to work with us around some use cases for the Hololens for RightIndem. I can’t discuss what those use cases are at the moment openly, but they are quite exciting and complement one of our project modules nicely.

If you would like Lars to run a workshop for your company, you can see the details on his workshops page. I highly recommend him for the Hololens workshop or his Winning at Life workshop.

First though, what is the HoloLens. Below is the brief description taken from the HoloLens website.

Microsoft HoloLens is the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.

When wearing the headset, you still have an unrestricted view of your surroundings, but you also see holograms that are placed in the room that you can only see with the HoloLens attached. These holograms are aware of their surroundings and can be placed on walls and tables. This is achieved by the HoloLens doing spatial mapping of the environment around it. You can then interact with these holograms directly whilst walking around your environment.

The HoloLens is a Windows 10 device which is untethered, which means you do not need a cable running between the headset and a powerful computer like you do with a Virtual Reality headset like the Oculus Rift.

Lars Klint Demonstrating the HoloLens
Lars Klint Demonstrating the HoloLens

With Lars visiting our offices we had 2 goals to achieve over 2 days. On the first day Lars facilitated a brain storming session with myself and the rest of the companies management team. We already had some ideas of where the HoloLens could be applied, but the purpose of this session was to work through different ideas and walk away with a rough plan for a series of minimum viable products we could build. This session went very well, and everyone involved had the opportunity to try the HoloLens for a good amount of time. This was important as people need to understand what the experience feels like in order to understand the constraints posed. Off the back of the session we have an idea for 2 technical spikes we want to try and a prototype product to build with it. The cool thing is, we already have a company we are talking too about partnering with us to deliver a HoloLens solution.

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Getting Started with Microsoft Band Development

Fellow Pluralsight author Lars Klint has just released a recording of a user group talk he did in Denmark which was about the Internet of Things and more specifically getting started with the Microsoft Band.

As a band owner myself, I have been wanting to get involved with developing against this device to read sensor data now that I have started down the Universal Windows App road, and this talk give you a good introduction so that you can get started right away.

I highly recommend watching it.

You can get started on your Microsoft Band Development journey by going to the official developer site.

Developing Windows 10 Universal Apps in Microsoft Visual Studio 2015

Now that I have upgraded my main work laptop to Windows 10, I want to learn all about the Windows 10 Universal Apps platform. I am at the beginning of this journey, so I am a beginner here. I have been looking for lots of resources to help me out and I found this TechEd training session on youtube. I have found it useful, so I thought I would share it.

I have also found the Microsoft Virtual Academy video for Windows 10 Development on Youtube. This is a longer tutorial, but covers much more detail.

Limiting Windows 10 Privacy Concerns

The release of Windows 10 has been very successful for Microsoft, but there are growing concerns from people about the level of data and telemetry that Microsoft is capturing from key logging data, usage telemetry and data about application you are running (both legitimate and pirated).

There have been many articles and tips scattered around the internet about how to limit this, but I found a useful video on Youtube that talks you through tweaking Windows 10 to limit this data capture. This includes simple and obvious tweaks to the Windows 10 settings through to deleting specific windows services, modifying group policy, tweaking the registry and updating your host file to stop Microsoft calling out to their servers.

Whether you apply all of these, or just some of them it is up to you and how bothered you are by this. If you do all of these tips then you loose things like Cortana. It’s up to you and how paranoid you are about such privacy concerns.

EDIT: If you are running Windows 10 Home edition then you will not have access to the group policy editing tool.

EDIT: I have tried all these changes out on my Surface 3 (apart from the group policy bit as I am running home edition) and everything still seems to be working OK,

Universal Windows Platform Guidance for Windows 10

Fellow Pluralsight author Lars Klint has released a Free Pluralsight webinar to help developers get started with Universal Windows Platform development under Windows 10.

If you are serious about  getting started with this platform, then I also recommend the Microsoft Virtual Academy series which will help jump start you

Universal Apps on Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10 getting ever closer (July 29th for the desktop version), Microsoft is putting a lot of weight around the new Universal Applications platform for Windows 10. This means you will now be able to write one application with one binary that works across the entire range of Windows 10 devices. This includes the desktop, mobile, IOT, Xbox, tablets and Hololens.

Universal Apps Platform
Universal Apps Platform

This is really big news and helps solidify the convergence of their platforms and builds on the windows application platform introduced as part of Windows 8.1. They were partly there with Universal Applications under Windows 8.1, but you still needed a desktop and Windows Phone version of your application even though you could share a large part of the code. Unfortunately the adoption of the Windows Application platform and store apps under Windows 8.1 was never really adopted by the mass market consumer and people who create apps for them, but I really hope that changes with Windows 10.

To me it finally seems as though Microsoft has created an almost perfect platform, and I really do hope it catches on as the programming model looks great, and a perfect evolution from Windows 8.1. Due to the fact that an app runs across all the device groups, Microsoft is claiming that not long after launch they will be on around a billion devices. This is great, but what Microsoft really has to focus on, it getting consumers to recognize that there is a store where they can buy apps.

Useful Articles on Microsofts HoloLens

Whilst on my quest for more information on HoloLens I came across some useful articles written by some early testers of the device, and also the cover feature for Februaries edition of Wired with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. These articles give lots of great insight into the new HoloLens device and it’s design and possible applications.

Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft HoloLens hands on: It’s early, but it’s already nifty

Project HoloLens: Our Exclusive Hands-On With Microsoft’s Holographic Goggles

Microsoft in the age of Satya Nadella