HoloLens documentation available now, Toolset coming March 30th

Kellogg Brengel


Earlier today confirmed that HoloLens Development Edition is set to ship on March 30th. The announcement came with an assortment of details such as the hardware components that makeup HoloLens and of course the price. At $3,000 a unit though the price might make the Development Edition inaccessible to developers with strapped resources or who aren’t ready to take the plunge on a new AR platform. But Microsoft also announced they will be releasing a HoloLens emulator.

The emulator allows developers to test holographic Universal Apps without owning a physical HoloLens. It works by emulating the holographic app on a PC using a Hyper-V virtual machine. And the inputs normally read by HoloLens’ numerous sensors are simulated with the user’s keyboard, mouse, or Xbox controller.

If you are interested in building a holographic app for HoloLens, but don’t want to pay $3,000 for a development edition, here is the checklist of things you’ll need to download to get started with the HoloLens emulator:

  • First to build the app you will end up testing on the simulator, developers use Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 with the Windows 10 SDK (10.0.10586). There is no standalone Software Development Kit for HoloLens apps; you’ll just use Visual Studio like building for any other Universal Windows App.
  • Next, install the HoloLens emulator (download to be released on March 30th).
  • Finally, install the Unity Technical Preview, the graphics engine used for building holographic apps.
Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens

Once you’ve downloaded all the tools and you’ve started building a holographic app, you can then deploy it to the emulator. Here are the steps for deploying your app to the HoloLens emulator.

  • Load your app solution in Visual Studio 2015. Note: When using Unity, build your project from Unity and then load the built solution into Visual Studio as usual.
  • Ensure the Platform is set to x86.
  • Select the HoloLens Emulator as the target device for debugging. Go to Debug > Start Debugging or press F5 to launch the emulator and deploy your app for debugging.

Now that the app is up and running in your emulator, you can begin to interact with it. You can use a keyboard and mouse or Xbox controller to simulate walking around, looking up and down, tapping the air, make a bloom gesture, or moving your hand to scroll.

HoloLens Emulator
The HoloLens OS in an emulator.

The emulator also has a Simulation Tab under its Additional Tools pane which allows you to view and manipulate the values of the simulated sensors. You can also choose from a variety of room environments to have your app simulated in under the Room Tab. The following simulated rooms include:

  • DefaultRoom.xef – A small living room with a TV, coffee table, and two sofas. Loaded by default when you start the emulator.
  • Bedroom1.xef – A small bedroom with a desk.
  • Bedroom2.xef – A bedroom with a queen size bed, dresser, nightstands, and walk-in closet.
  • GreatRoom.xef – A large open space great room with living room, dining table, and kitchen.
  • LivingRoom.xef – A living room with a fireplace, sofa, armchairs, and a coffee table with a vase.

If you do ever end up getting a HoloLens development edition, there is also a way to scan and record your own rooms with it to use in the emulator through the Windows Device Portal.

There are a few technical requirements to be aware of for the different tools involved in building and emulating your own holographic apps.

The Visual Studio 2015 with Windows 10 SDK is best used on a Windows 10 operating system, but other versions of Windows are supported. The list of supported OS for the Windows 10 SDK are: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Winder Server 2012, and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Galaxy Explorer HoloLens

The HoloLens emulator also has some minimum system requirements for the virtualizations since it is based on HyperV and uses RemoteFX for hardware accelerated graphics. To run the emulator make sure your system has:

  • 64-bit Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education (The Home edition does not support Hyper-V)
  • 64-bit CPU
  • 8 GB of RAM or more

And also make sure that your system’s BIOS has the following features enabled:

  • Hardware-assisted virtualization
  • Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  • Hardware-based Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • GPU (The emulator might work without an unsupported GPU, but will be significantly slower)
  • DirectX 11.0 or later
  • WDDM 1.2 driver or later

To find out more about the HoloLens Developer Edition pre-order and to gain access to all the software download links when they are made available on March 30th, you can head over to the Windows Dev Center page for HoloLens.