MS HoloLens and How to Get Started

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MS HoloLens and How to Get Started

Ready to pack your bags to go to HoloLens Academy? Well, before you jump in, make sure your environment is ready to go.

· IoT Zone ·
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In my career, I have been in many positions from CEO to CTO to architect (both data and systems) to developer, etc. Therefore, I am always interested in new technologies and how they can benefit an organization.

So, why I did I choose the Hololens? Well, that is an article for a different publication. This is how to actually get the thing usable. I am also talking about the actual physical device, not the emulator which has its own set of requirements.

Please note that for many years I have been working as a full stack developer and focused on web based technologies (PHP, Python, MySQL, NoSQL), etc. No MS or Unity ever! So it's been a big jump for me and anybody else that wishes to join this brave new world.

What Do You Need to Get Going?

This question actually plagued me for some time. I have many computers with different operating systems such as Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux, but my most recent Windows machine had died and I had not bothered to replace it yet. So, the most common question that I could come up with is "What is the best machine to develop for Hololens?"

That question didn't lead me anywhere, though. Therefore, I started to research the next step: What does this device need? As it turns out, the device doesn't need much. In fact, you could run it using a virtual environment on a different operating system. I chose not to take that route based on past experiences (the thing never was working correctly). One of the important elements is that the machine needs to be able to run Unity and Visual Studio. This is interesting due to the fact that Unity typically involves different hardware to run (it is primarily used for game making), and it is a wonderful piece of software technology.

After considerable effort, I chose a solid laptop, which enabled me to be mobile. I have been using a MacBook Pro for the last five years and love the machine. It is solid, stable and reliable. I needed the same for my Hololens development, so I chose a SurfaceBook. Of course, it is more expensive, but it had all the bells and whistles that I needed and wanted. The other choice was a Dell XPS, which is, in my opinion, a fantastic machine as well. 

Installing the Environment

Some of this is pretty straightforward, but when you are diving into a new world (and it is), then it is nice to know what to do. Of course, you should always read as much as you can, but the Hololens is very new and the average non-Unity/C# programmer looking to get into it may feel a bit lost.

Let's dive into the installation.

  1. Download and install the latest Unity development environment (I'm using Unity 5.5.1f1 ).

  2. Download and install MS Visual Studio Community 2015 (the version I work with).

  3. I typically download and install the HoloLens toolkit from GitHub.

  4. I would very much recommend you go to the HoloLens Academy and run through those exercises.

  5. Download the first exercise

  6. I would recommend that you set up a separate directory on your local drive and extract the lessons into that.

Now, if you have a device and your first lesson, that is all you need at this point. If not, you need to install the emulator, which you can download from Microsoft.

Creating Your First HoloLens App

So now you are ready — or as ready as you will be.

This is where I initially messed up and caused some angst. I started Unity and created a new project. You can do that, of course, then import the assets into it from the project. However, that leads to a lesson on how to import assets, find assets, etc. Not a fun experience when you want to dive into the holographic world.

Find the directory that you put your project in and look inside the starting subdirectory. In fact, follow the instructions in the Acadamy website. They are very accurate, although, it is easy to skip the steps. Please don't: If you do, it will lead to countless hours of frustration.

Congratulations! If you made it to this point, you have created your first hologram and your journey has begun!

Things start to get even more exciting when you dive deeper into Unity. Unity gives you the ability to take any model, animate it, and interact with it. 

The Microsoft lessons are very useful, and you should work your way through them. 

hololens, iot, tutorial, visual studio, windows

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