Note: if the first paragraph seems familiar, it is not a coincidence. I accidentally published it along with the previous blog post at first.
HoloLens is a single user device. This means that nobody can see what the user experiences. Not even you, which usually results in awkward questions like “Did you tap that? Did the button become active? What do you see?”. Not to mention the other guests at your booth or the other participants of the meeting who are suddenly either bored or – in the better case – flood you with questions that you can’t answer properly because you are trying to help the guy who is wearing HoloLens for the first time in his life (which is why you should bring a colleague to these meetings so that one of you can help with the demo while the other answers questions).
Mixed Reality Capture
Using Mixed Reality Capture can help with some of these issues. It allows (you and others) to see what the user sees and thus you will have a much better idea of what’s going on in his head(set). If you connect your computer to a projector, it also allows other participants of the meeting to join in the demo. After all, nothing is funnier than the vice president of a Fortune 500 company placing holographic space helmets on his subordinate’s head. And joking aside, the demo will be more memorable if all participants in the meeting are involved.
But there are some drawbacks to projecting the user’s experience through Mixed Reality Capture, even if you do it right.
The first issue is that Mixed Reality Capture requires a more complicated setup. It needs a stable local Wi-Fi (especially difficult in an expo, where every booth has their own Wi-Fi hotspot) that you need to set up prior to the demo.
Also, running Mixed Reality Capture degrades the user’s experience – it lowers the frame rate to a maximum of 30, and can make the holograms choppy. It also reduces the resolution for the right eye. This quality degradation may not even be consciously recognized (especially if our “subject” has never experienced HoloLens before), but it does prevent him or her from experiencing your app in all its glory. So, even when I’m using MRC in a meeting, I usually allow for a minute of non-projection time and explain that the projection does decrease quality.
The third issue with projecting what the user sees is that it simply spoils the surprise for the others in the room, and reduces the number of WOWs you get.
So, you should carefully contemplate whether to use Mixed Reality Capture in a demo session – and whether to allow the participants to see it. The answer – as always – is that it depends, and you should decide on a case-by-case basis, considering the app, the audience, the technical environment and your goals of the demo.
In an expo scenario, I prefer to put a pre-produced video of the app on a large TV or a projector. This can attract visitors from further away from your booth, make them stop and take a brochure even if they can’t wait until the end of the line standing by for the demos. The pre-produced video can (and should) be professionally recorded and even include a third person view of the app using Spectator View, instead of a shaky first-person view.
Speaking of Spectator View, an expo or an on-stage conference demo can greatly benefit from an outside, third person view that shows both the user and the full virtual world around him/her. This is not an easy or cheap thing to do (requires a second HoloLens device, a powerful PC, stable communication between the different devices, a good camera and also some setup time), but if you can do it, it’s the best way to show what the user sees.
An even better solution is a moving spectator system, where the camera is in motion – but this is something that even Microsoft themselves can only afford at a few high visibility events, and requires a hefty equipment.
Audio and Visual Clues
Audio is an important part of the HoloLens experience. But it can also help you understand where the user is in the demo flow. In a quiet environment, you can stand close to the user and hear the voice prompts, beeps, etc that you have added to the app, and you can know whether the air tap on the “next” button was successful or not. In my experience, high pitched beeps work best due to the sensitivity of the human ear and the sound frequency characteristics of the HoloLens speaker.
You can also learn a lot by looking at the HoloLens from the side. You won’t know what the user is looking at, but based on the small amount of light at the edge of the display, you can guess the overall brightness and color of the scene in from of them.
For a simple on-on-one demo, you may only need a charged HoloLens. If you want to use Mixed Reality Capture to see what the user is doing, you will also need a laptop, a Wi-Fi hotspot (unless you want to rely on the guest Wi-Fi, but setting that up on the spot can be tedious, and it may not even work or be available).
For longer demo sessions such as a whole day of demos at your booth, you’ll need your charger, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a laptop, a TV or projector and so on. You should also have more than one HoloLenses (both for backup and to serve more visitors) and keep them continuously on a charger when not in use. And if you’re using Spectator View or Mixed Reality Capture at your booth, don’t forget to bring all that equipment, too.
In the next post, I’ll discuss how you need to change your app to be suitable for a demo. Because to collect the maximum number of WOWs, you’ll have to. As always, please let me know your thoughts in the comments!