Augmented Reality with Hololens: Experiential Architectures Embedded in the Real World

Additional notes:


  • Paul Hockett, National Research Council of Canada, 100 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, K1A 0R6, Canada

  • Tim Ingleby, Department of Architecture and Built Environment, Northumbria University, Ellison Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK



Early hands-on experiences with the Microsoft Hololens augmented/mixed reality device are reported and discussed, with a general aim of exploring basic 3D visualization. A range of usage cases are tested, including data visualization and immersive data spaces, in-situ visualization of 3D models and full scale architectural form visualization. Ultimately, the Hololens is found to provide a remarkable tool for moving from traditional visualization of 3D objects on a 2D screen, to fully experiential 3D visualizations embedded in the real world.


Augmented, or mixed, reality (AR or MR) has recently become easily accessible to a range of professionals for the first time, with the release of the developer edition of Microsoft’s Hololens. Since April 2016, Microsoft has been supplying devices, albeit limited to developers in the US and Canada, whose application for the hardware was successful. At the time of writing (July/August 2016), a range of developers - from programmers to artists to scientists - are exploring this new hardware platform, developing applications and beginning to work seriously with AR. While AR platforms, and the underlying concepts, have been around for many years (as have related virtual reality (VR) technologies), Hololens represents a significant technological step, and the first opportunity for many professionals to experience head-mounted AR, and incorporate it into their everyday work.

As with many new technologies, the core applications and uses underlying AR are clear, and naturally formed some of the initial reasons for the hardware development (for recent discussions, within the context of architecture and design, see for instance Architecture in an Age of Augmented Reality: Mobile AR’s Opportunities and Obstacles in Design, Construction, and Post-Completion, ref. (Abboud 2014), and To go where no man has gone before: Virtual reality in architecture, landscape architecture and environmental planning, ref. (Portman 2015)). For example, AR/MR presents an ideal environment for 3D visualization, in which existing real-world objects can be combined with computer-generated objects (c.f. VR, in which the environment is fully virtual with no real-world components). Initial promo and demo materials from Microsoft detail, and illustrate, some of these concepts, applied to CAD and architectural scenarios, e.g. refs. (Trimble 2015, Microsoft 2015, Lynn 2016). However, also as with many new technologies, it is only when devices are released to a large development base (and, in the future, general users) that the full potential, depth and breadth of these basic concepts are realised. In the spirit of development, and cross-pollination, we detail herein some of our early work and experiences with the Hololens.