Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Build 2016 HoloLens

The long anticipated day came where I had to be at the Moscone center on April 1 at 7:30 in the morning for the start of my Hololense presentation. On my way to the conference center I discovered that hotel decided to lock me out (sent me a bill as if I had checked out already) and I had to spend 15 minutes at the front desk explaining that I needed a new key. By the time I got to the Moscone center there was a huge crowd waiting at the front entrance and security wasn't letting anybody in. I needed to inform the security guards that I was a part of the very special crowd to go upstairs and be part of the most popular event of the conference.

By the time I got up, it was around 7:50 am, the event had already started and apparently my spot was given away to somebody on the waitlist. Maybe it was my being one of the very few women invited (if not the only one), or my persistence, or looking very pregnant and sad, but they decided to let me in. The deal was that I don't get a computer to write the code since all the seats were taken, but a pair of Hololens for all the fun.

Taken at HoloLens photo booth
So after all the frustration of the morning I was let to this huge room, setup in a coliseum shape, with the presenters at the center, and rows of desks and couches around it. One member of the staff was demoing how to code, while the other was talking the crowd through the steps. I didn't miss much since I had done the prework and familiarized myself with Unity. The staff was extremely nice and let me sit on their couch.

After the initial introductions and short talk we got to try the Hololens, every participant got to have the duration of the session one. We started by learning how to control the Hololens, and how to send voice commands, use Cortana. I felt that the fit over my glasses was rather uncomfortable and decided to keep the glasses off for the duration of the session, however I was told they fit fine over a pair of skinny classes.

First we built and deployed an object, basically you can take any 3D object in .3ds or other formats and convert it to "Hololensable". Then we learned how and were to mount the objects through Hololens. The part that started to become more fun was the team aspect of the task. Teams of 6-7 people were formed where we would setup and move our object called 'energy source' and had to collaborate.

With minimal code changes since everything was setup, which mostly involved copy and paste, and use of high level commands like Physics.Move() we added some cool avatars. Our avatars then were programmed to shoot each other, which is always exciting :) Well, to make things more awesome, as the final step of the demo, we added an external enemy, who we were fighting against as a group. Added a 'hole' in the ground where the external avatars were coming and we got to shoot everyone while dodging the bullets!

What was great about the setup was that there was one staff member appointed to help with coding experience and answer any questions for each 2 participants of the demo. This helped get some real questions I was concerned about answered. For example DirectX developers don't need Unity, they can continue doing their coding in C++.

Overall, the experience didn't disappoint my expectations, I left inspired to work on Hololens Netflix app one day and maybe write my own apps in spare time. The price tag of $3000 still seems rather steep for buying the prototype for personal use, and they won't start to ship for a while. But when the price goes down and I have spare time, it will be on the top of my hobby list to try. Awesome morning, thank you Microsoft and Hololens team for having the event, and especially for letting me in.