Types of holographic apps

One of the advantages of developing apps on the HoloLens, is that there is a spectrum of experiences that the platform can support. From fully immersive, virtual environments, to light information layering over a user’s current environment, the HoloLens provides a robust set of tools to bring any experience to life. It is important for an app maker to understand early in their development process as to where along this spectrum their experience lies. This decision will ultimately impact both the app design makeup and the technological path for development.

Enhanced Environment Apps

One of the most powerful ways that holograms can bring value to users is by facilitating the placement of digital information or content in a user’s current environment. This is an Enhanced Environment App. This approach is popular for apps where the contextual placement of digital content in the real world is paramount and/or keeping the user’s real world environment “present” during their experience is key. This approach also allows users to easily move from real world tasks to digital tasks and back easily, lending even more credence to promise that the holograms the user sees are truly a part of their environment.

Examples Uses

  • A holographic notepad style app that allows users to create and place notes around their environment
  • A holographic television app placed in a comfortable spot for viewing
  • A holographic cooking app placed above the kitchen island to assist in a cooking task
  • A holographic app that gives users the feeling of “x-ray vision” (i.e. a hologram placed on top of and mimics a real world object, while allowing the user to see “inside it” holographically)
  • Holographic annotations placed throughout a factory to give worker’s necessary information
  • Holographic wayfinding in an office space
  • Holographic tabletop experiences (i.e. board game style experiences )
  • Holographic communication apps like Skype

Blended Environment Apps

Given HoloLen's ability to recognize and map the user's environment, it is capable of creating a digital layer that can be completely overlaid the user’s space. Thin layer respects the shape and boundaries of the user’s environment, but the app may choose to transform certain elements best suited to immerse the user in the app. This is called a Blended Environment App. Unlike an Enhanced Environment App, Blended Environment Apps may only care enough about the real world environment to best use its makeup for encouraging specific user behavior (like encouraging movement or exploration) or by replacing real world elements with virtual changes (a kitchen counter is virtually skinned to show a different tile pattern). This type of experience may even transform a real world element into an entirely different object, but still retain the rough dimensions of the real world object as its base (a real world kitchen island is transformed into a holographic dumpster for a crime thriller game).

Examples Uses:

  • A holographic interior design app that can paint walls, countertops or floors in different colors and patterns
  • A holographic app that allows an automotive designer to layer new design iterations for an upcoming car refresh on top of an existing car
  • A real world bed is “covered” and replaced by a holographic fruit stand in children’s game
  • A real world desk is “covered” and replaced with a holographic dumpster in a crime thriller game
  • A real world hanging lantern is “covered” and replaced with signpost using roughly the same shape and dimension
  • An app that allows users to blast holographic holes in their real world walls, which reveal a magical world

Virtual Environment Apps

Virtual Environment Apps, an environment that completely changes the user’s world and can place them in a different time and space is absolutely achievable in the HoloLens. Despite the fact the user’s retain their peripheral vision of the real world at all times, these environments can feel very real, creating immersive and thrilling experiences that are only limited by the app creators imagination. Unlike Blended Environment Apps, once the HoloLens identifies the user’s space, a Virtual Environment App may totally disregard the user’s environment and replace it whole stock with one of its own. In the case of an interior experience, walls, floors and ceilings may be completely different than the real world environment. These experiences may also completely separate time and space, meaning a user could walk the streets of Rome in a virtual experience, while remaining relatively still in their real world space. Context of the real world environment may not be important to a Virtual Environment App, limiting the need for holograms to “line up” or be placed strategically in the space. That said, HoloLens’ sensors must always be able to read and identify a given environment order to place world-locked holograms, wherever they may be.

Examples Uses:

  • A holographic app that lets a user tour a space completely separate from their own (i.e. walk through a famous building, museum, popular city)
  • A holographic app that orchestrates an immersive event or scenario around the user (i.e. a battle or a performance )