Fossett Lab Resources
The lab currently holds 7 HoloLens, augmented reality headsets. These devices can be used in a group to provide shared experiences of virtual objects placed within the room. The applications that the lab is developing range from a variety of subject areas, however, the most developed apps are CrystalViewer that allows the exploration of atomic mineral structures, and GeoExplorer that provides a platform for visualizing 3D 1:1 scale outcrops from around the world.
The Microsoft HoloLens is different from other virtual reality headsets (such as the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive) in that it allows you to bring and interact with virtual ‘holograms’ into the real world around you. The headset is untethered so you can wander anywhere without having to be close to (or have to carry with you) an associated computer. One HoloLens can even talk to others connected over Wi-Fi to bring people together to explore the same holographic world.
What you see
After putting on the HoloLens, adjusting the headband using the rotating disk at the back to fit your head, you can see through the clear screen in front of your eyes to the real room around you. If the HoloLens is already turned on then a holographic Start Menu will appear:
You will notice that you field-of-view into the holographic environment is small, like looking through a letterbox. This takes a little getting used to, but will soon become immersive. The Start Menu will follow you wherever you look. There will also be a white dot that always appears in the center of your view and you control by moving your head around. This is your cursor which you will see changes if you place it on menu items.
If you begin to feel nauseous, take off the HoloLens.
We use hand ‘Gestures’ to interact with holograms. The HoloLens can detect gestures directly in front of it. If your hand is off to the side or down by your waist then it won’t see it. Often the cursor will change shape when if detects that a hand is present:
There are 3 gestures that are key:
This gesture is used to select holographic objects, just like a left-click on a computer. Firstly make sure the cursor is over the hologram you want to select.
- Make sure your cursor is on the hologram you want to select.
- Hold your hand straight out in front of you in a loose fist, then point your index finger straight up toward the ceiling. There’s no need to raise your whole arm—keep your elbow low and comfortable.
- Tap your index finger down towards you thumb, then quickly raise it back up again.
Tap and Hold
This gesture is used to scroll, drag, zoom or resize holograms. It works just like the Airtap just instead of raising your finger back up, hold your index finger down and then move your whole hand keeping it out in front of the HoloLens. Moving your hand too far may make the HoloLens loose your detected hand and the gesture will be lost.
Blooming brings up the Start Menu and also quits out of any application you have running. It’s a good way of getting reoriented. To bloom:
- Hold out your hand palm-up, with all your fingers touch above it.
- Spread out your fingers and open out your hand.
You can also interact by using your voice to say commands. The Microsoft assistant, Cortana, is built into the operating system and will respond if you say “Hey, Cortana”. There’s more in depth information about voice input here.
From the Start Menu you can launch an application by Airtapping it. Doing this will hide the Start Menu and bring up the application launch window. Often this will be a big white window (sometimes will have a logo on it or even be a hologram) that you can place anywhere within your holographic environment just by looking and walking around (you can even place them on walls or tables!). Airtap again and it will launch the application.
To exit an application, just Bloom.
Recording your experience
It may be necessary to record your holographic experience for future reference. This can be done easily using voice input through Cortana, or now using gestures:
- To start recording a video simply say, “Hey, Cortana. Start recording”. To stop recording say, “Hey, Cortana. Stop recording.”
- To take a picture say, “Hey Cortana, take a picture.”
- From within the application, use the “bloom” gesture to bring up an interaction menu.
- Select either “Take a picture” or “Record a video” options from the menu and follow the holographic instructions.
The recordings and photos that are taken are then stored within the Photos app that is accessed from the Start Menu.
The user can also use the HoloLens application on the lab desktop. This provides a GUI that can control the live view of a particular HoloLens and download the recorded photos of videos. Alternatively, simply plug in the HoloLens through USB and use the File Manager