So, I watched the Microsoft HoloLens video. I’m diagnosing my relative lack of excitement as having something to do with it showing an incomplete vision.

Depicting the idea that this technology is closer than ever before1 to representing what it’s like to sculpt physical materials is a lazy trope. Sculpting virtual rockets for your kid is just not a use for this that will ever matter, even if it actually becomes possible as shown.

Why exactly are we so obsessed with faithful represention?

Another tidy analogy: in architectural design, orthographic representation is fundamental to understanding element relationships well enough to inform the judgments one needs to make to design well. It’s sufficiently fundamental that more experienced architects can often make an accurate guess as to whether someone designed entirely in digital model or have actually drawn plans, sections and elevations. (The hint for me is that there are often these curiously under-resolved areas that would have been immediately obvious on eg. an interior elevation).

And yet, these are representations that deliberately distort “reality.” There is no place you could stand or eye you could have that could actually see this view of the real building. They are amazingly useful once you learn to read them. (That reading them is a skill means, of course, that there’s lots of room for misinterpretation, which is why real and digital models are also valuable. I’m just saying they don’t stand alone any better than an orthographic does). A representation’s usefulness for providing design feedback can come as much from how ingeniously poorly it matches reality as how faithfully.

So, that’s a long way around to saying that what will knock my socks off in one of these videos is when I see some thought given to even a guess at a new distorted representations–one that we may not even yet be able to read–that will become easy.2

Wed 21 Jan 2015
  1. Considering this “close” is almost comically charitable.

  2. I do recognize the arc of technology is to start by sticking a camera in the audience of a play and calling it cinema. Still, we’re emboldened-visioning here, or whatever.