Microsoft unveiled Hololens 2, its second-generation augmented reality headset, earlier this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Seattle company’s been taking preorders for months and making units available to select developers, and some reports suggested Hololens 2 would begin shipping broadly as soon as early fall. That didn’t come to pass, but this morning, the company confirmed that the headset will begin shipping to customer doorsteps in the U.S., France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K. starting today.
A developer edition of Hololens 2 is available for $3,500 (with financing for $99 per user per month) alongside a device-only SKU for $3,500.
By way of refresher, the 1.3-pound Hololens 2 boasts a variety of improvements over its predecessor, including a more balanced front and back, a flip-up visor design, eye-tracking, and improved time-of-flight gesture tracking. Additionally, the new model uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 processor, supports Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, and gives developers access to a wider range of APIs and drivers, including the ability to create their own app stores for distribution of HoloLens 2 apps.
Hololens 2’s other highlights include a field of view that’s double that of the previous generation (from 34 degrees to 52 degrees diagonally), plus support for additional gestures. Thanks to AI and “semantic understanding,” the headset enables the direct manipulation of holograms as though you’re interacting with a physical object. And apps can detect where you’re looking while you can also now log in with Microsoft’s biometric Windows Hello authentication using iris recognition.
It’s relatively slim pickings when it comes to applications — Hololens 2 is decidedly developer-oriented — but fortunately, Microsoft says that support for the original Hololens isn’t going away. Hololens 2 buyers can pay a additional monthly fee for Remote Assist software, which facilitates live, hands-free troubleshooting. And Microsoft is incorporating custom version of Hololens 2 into the U.S. military’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System.
If Microsoft follows its prior HoloLens strategy, Hololens 2 demo units could appear in its retail stores during the holiday season.