Microsoft publishes HoloLens “Spectator View” hack

Kit McDonald

The HoloLens is a high quality augmented reality headset that lets the user see a mixture of digital in a physical space. It quite impressively can connect wirelessly with other HoloLens users, leaping the distance across the globe to bring 3D collaboration in the same mixed reality. However, even as it develops, the HoloLens has its flaws.

One of these is the lack of broadcasting high-quality perspective to users without a HoloLens on. The device itself isn’t very cheap, so it’s unexpected for every user in a presentation to be able to see what an active wearer would be. Of course, there is the use of the built-in camera but it isn’t the best quality, and doesn’t show the user along with the content.

This is a flaw that Microsoft is tackling head on. Reporters at The Verge were invited to participate in a HoloLens demo showing off the Microsoft recommended “Spectator View”. To put it basically, this view makes it possible to record and watch HoloLens presentations/videos from the perspective of a HoloLens wearer without ever putting the device on your head.

The recently published open-source hack requires four components:

  1. An app built specifically to enable spectator view, which is based on shared holographic experiences.
  2. A user wearing HoloLens using the app.
  3. A spectator view camera rig providing a third-person perspective video.
  4. A desktop PC running the shared experience app and compositing the holograms into a spectator view video.

The application runs using an HDMI camera rigged up on a tripod with a custom HoloLens mount. It isn’t a simple process, but for app developers and businesses, this could be the make or break opportunity for creating presentations and advertising videos with minimal investment.

The Spectator View still has a long way to go. It doesn’t capture audio and the ability to 3D print your own mount can be costly. But as the demand has been so high for such a feature, it’s likely to be improved and implemented further over time.

If you’d like to build your own Spectator View rig, make sure to check out the Microsoft tutorial.