While most virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs) now have a release window within the next 12 months, it feels like Microsoft’s mixed reality (MR) kit, HoloLens, is still a long way out. The device, which allows users to see and interact with holograms, was revealed as recently as January 2015 and is yet to have its own release window attached to it. That made it somewhat surprising when start up Object Theory announced itself to be a HoloLens-exclusive developer a few weeks back.
It’s a bold move given that so much about the device is yet to be determined, and VRFocus recently spoke to the team’s Raven Zachary about the news. In the interview below Zachary touches upon why Object Theory has so much confidence in HoloLens. He also talks about HoloLens’ own capabilities in terms of VR and what the future might hold for the company.
VRFocus: Object Theory includes Michael Hoffman, who worked on HoloLens himself as part of Microsoft Studios. What did Hoffman work on for the kit and how is this helping at the new company?
Raven Zachary: Michael led the creation of showcase experiences for Microsoft HoloLens as a Principal Engineering Lead in Microsoft Studios. This included Keystone, components of OnSight and other undisclosed initiatives. Keystone is the award-winning proof-of-concept developed in partnership with Trimble Navigation Limited. OnSight is the Microsoft collaboration with JPL/NASA for the Curiosity rover mission planning on Mars
VRFocus: Why did Hoffman decide to continue to work on HoloLens in an external capacity?
Raven Zachary: Michael was commuting four hours each way between Portland and Redmond twice a week to work on the HoloLens team at Microsoft. After 18 months of this, he needed a change. Starting Object Theory provides Michael with the opportunity to stay in the emerging HoloLens ecosystem.
VRFocus: What types of projects do you anticipate working on at Object Theory?
Raven Zachary: We are interested in partnering with enterprises, vertical market companies, and brands focused on creating launch day ready HoloLens applications that provide clear business value.
VRFocus: Does the company already have projects in the works? Are you able to talk about them?
Raven Zachary: We have nothing to announce today.
VRFocus: VR developers are betting big on a number of devices, but at Object Theory, you’re only concerned with HoloLens. Just how successful do you see the device being?
Raven Zachary: When I started my last company, Small Society, in the mobile app space, there were already millions of iPhones in the market before the launch of the App Store. This is a very different set of dynamics. We are starting a HoloLens company before we have any clarity on the market size. Obviously we think the market size will be large enough to support our company and many others like ours, but one of the downsides of launching early has to do with the risks that are largely outside of our control.
As we see many of the early apps we intend to build for clients being internally-focused, we are less dependent upon the consumer market reach of this product. Some of the apps we intend to build may only be used by a handful of employees in a company with several HoloLens devices. In other cases, both the user base and device base will be larger.
VRFocus: Do you see HoloLens as a device that competes with other VR HMDs or something that will co-exist with them?
Raven Zachary: In some areas, VR and AR will compete for dollars, definitely. But mostly these are distinct markets. AR will be more successful for business use. Most of the economic opportunity for VR will be in entertainment. There will be some VR business apps as there will be some AR entertainment apps. AR will crossover both markets more naturally than VR will.
VRFocus: In your press release you mention that HoloLens is capable of ‘fully virtual reality applications’. How exactly does it achieve this?
Raven Zachary: If you take a look at the HoloLens JPL/NASA Mars demo from Microsoft, they are projecting the surface of Mars into a room. This is similar in some ways to VR. The HoloLens is not just about projecting a set of digital objects into an environment. It can project other environments into your own.
VRFocus: Could the studio potentially work on other mixed reality devices such as Magic Leap in the future?
Raven Zachary: Our focus is entirely on Microsoft HoloLens. Who knows what the future will bring.