Microsoft’s new HoloLens 2 mixed reality eyewear debuted at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday. Microsoft showed off glasses that are both lighter and cheaper than the first edition HoloLens, released in March 2016. The new model will start at $3,500, down from a $5,000 price point.
The price makes the glasses prohibitively expensive for the average consumer who wants to enjoy holographic gaming experiences, but gamers aren’t Microsoft’s target audience for HoloLens. Companies instead shared how they’re already using HoloLens, along with potential future use cases. The glasses can be used to help a group of toy designers collaborate on a product, construction projects, or even surgeries, according to some of the use cases outlined by Microsoft and its partners.
Its an unusual release at a show where the focus is on consumer tech, but Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said Microsoft’s big reveal at Mobile World Congress makes sense.
“I am glad that Microsoft is targeting the commercial market, and not the consumer market. The mixed reality market is early, and the experience doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to serve a business purpose to improve productivity or serve customers better,” said Moorhead. “Therefore [HoloLens] doesn’t need to look and be light, like everyday glasses.”
The release, he said, is the first step as mixed reality technology improves and goes mainstream.
“The first personal computers were much bigger than computers of today, and were popular because they replaced the typewriter and calculator,” he said.
While HoloLens has impressed those who have tried it, according to tweets from Mobile World Congress, the technology hasn’t been without controversy. Last November, Microsoft landed a $480 million contract with the U.S. military, which said it planned to purchase as many as 100,000 of the devices that can help troops get the information they need to make quick, informed decisions.
On Friday, days before the HoloLens 2 announcement in Barcelona, a group of Microsoft employees sent an open letter to CEO Satya Nadella and chief counsel Brad Smith, asking them to cancel the contract, which they said would apply HoloLens “to help people kill.”
“It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated video game, further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed,” the letter said.