There was a period of time, not so long ago, right after the first Google Cardboard appeared and right before the performance enhancements of devices like Samsung’s Gear VR, where a slew of plastic VR headsets flooded the market. Instead of holding a viewer up to your face, you could just strap it on and it was a much more comfortable way to explore mobile VR.
The experience was pretty choppy, but the paradigm shift in thinking helped us to comprehend how, instead of investing in an expensive gaming PC and a $600 headset, one could just as easily use their phone to have an immersive experience, just by holding it up to your face.
While most mobile users have become accustomed to using AR as a camera layer via lenses and filters on social media, we still haven’t “quite” had that same “google cardboard” type of experience with AR. While there are definitely AR/XR headsets currently on the market, they are lagging far behind even traditional VR headsets in mass adoption.
All of that could be about to change, now that the HoloKit headset by Holo Interactive has entered the scene. Designed to work with an iPhone, this affordable headset aims to make AR accessible to everyone.
Design and Compatibility:
The HoloKit headset, much like Google Cardboard, is a lightweight and cost-effective option for those looking to dabble in AR. Priced at $129 (or a bundle of two for $249) the device is compatible with most iPhone models, making it a versatile choice for iPhone users. Its simple design enables users to attach and detach their iPhones with ease.
I won’t lie. It’s not the sexiest piece of kit to wear on your face, but the design is solid and comfortably enables the experience.
(Note: I should have borrowed another phone to show how it fits into the headset. Unfortunately, it’s hard to take a photo of a mobile headset when you need the phone for photos…)
Display and Optics:
The HoloKit’s optics might not be as advanced as those found in high-end AR headsets, but they do a decent job of projecting digital content onto the real world. Featuring Stereoscopic AR (StAR) the device uses mirrors and lenses to overlay virtual objects onto your surroundings. The headset’s field of view (FoV) is reasonably wide, offering a satisfactory AR experience.
Performance and Tracking:
The HoloKit takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in sensors for tracking and positional data, eliminating the need for additional external tracking systems. While this simplifies the user experience and keeps costs low, it might not be as accurate as the more sophisticated solutions found in higher-end AR devices such as Lenovo or MagicLeap. Nonetheless, the tracking is generally smooth, and the virtual objects stay in place “reasonably” well.
Ease of Use and Content:
The HoloKit is relatively user-friendly. Users can quickly download the accompanying app, insert their iPhone into the headset, and dive in. The app provides access to a small selection of tutorial content, including hand tracking and multiplayer experiences. A dev kit is available for Unity, to allow for further development.
Battery Life and Connectivity:
As the HoloKit relies on the iPhone for processing and tracking, there’s no need for a built-in battery, which helps keep the device simple and lightweight. As with most immersive mobile experiences, it will definitely eat up your battery pretty quickly.
Mixed Reality Capacities
- 6 degrees of freedom spatial tracking using ARKit
- 3D environmental perception using iPhone LiDAR Scanner
- Precise Hand Tracking using Apple Vision framework
- Hands-free Motion Control using Apple Watch
- Human and Object Recognition using Apple CoreML and Apple Neural Engine
- Spatial and Geometry-aware Audio using Apple PHASE framework
- Precise Haptic Feedback using Apple CoreHaptics framework
Stereoscopic AR Headset for iPhone
- 60° ultrawide field of view
- Crystal-clear optical lenses
- Comfortable ergonomic design with replaceable headband
- Compatible with eyeglasses
One interesting angle that Holo Interactive is promoting is the concept of immersive NFT’s. According to Holo Interactive “With HoloKit, you’re able to bring your 3D NFT objects, avatars IRL to DREAM TOGETHER in realities. We currently support for Meebits. Send over your Meebit 3D FBX files to us to make it alive IRL. More support is coming.”
Room for Improvement:
Despite its many benefits, the HoloKit still has room for improvement. The stereoscopic AR effect could be better, as Apple Insider points out, and the overall build quality may not be as sturdy as more expensive options. However, considering the device’s simplicity and low price point, these compromises are to be expected.
Yes, the HoloKit headset is like Google Cardboard for augmented reality, but this paradigm is needed. Its simple design, affordability, and compatibility with iPhones make it an attractive option for those wanting to try out AR without breaking the bank. While it may not offer the most advanced AR experience, the HoloKit is a great starting point for newcomers, and with the release of its dev kit, there will surely be more content coming soon.
Sean Earley is the Executive Editor of AR/VR Magazine & co-founder of RobotSpaceship Podcast Network. He is the Director of New Biz Development and Publishing at KEMWEB, a musician, producer & consultant. He loves guitars, VR and coffee.