Interview

Sascha Pallenberg about Microsoft HoloLens, Google Glass and the innovative Power of Porn

Von am 07.02.2015 um 22:50 Uhr | 0

Sascha Pallenberg, 43, lives in Taipei and is running his blogs from Taiwan. The Dortmund-Born Techblogger is considered being an expert on Gadgets, Wearables, Smartwatches or Smartglasses. We interviewed him about the new Microsoft Smartglass and his experience with the Google Glass.

Mr. Pallenberg, on January 21st Microsoft revealed HoloLens. Your first impression? 

My first thought was „Wow! What are they doing now?”. No one thought Microsoft would present Smartglasses all of a sudden. And what kind of Smartglasses! HoloLens lets childhoods dream’s come true: Everyone wants to move digital things in the real world since we saw Holodecks in Star Trek. With Microsoft we now have a huge player in Virtual Reality. They have ecosystems for operating systems, gaming and content. That’s very, very interesting.

HoloLens came out of nowhere and stole the thunder from Windows 10. Did you expect this from Microsoft?

I keep an eye on Microsoft since quite a while now. Again and again I saw great projects and experiments coming out of their labs. I’m sure that Microsoft’s perception in public did not reflect their real value. To me they are much cooler than what you can read about Windows and Xbox. With HoloLens they show their true talent.

If these glasses ever go to market, what do you think could be their main purpose?

I can imagine they would work pretty great in medical care. Or for architects. Just imagine: You put on these glasses and you can walk through your new house, check it out and interact with it – although it is just code in a computer at that point. The systems which are currently available have a pretty limited experience in terms of interaction.

How about gaming?

Gaming is always a driving force for any new technology. Microsoft’s Kinect is a great example. Once Kinect was released people started hacking and modding it. Microsoft dropped all concerns pretty quickly and just let them do it. What was the result? A new industry. Kinect completely changed the way we interact with computers by using gestures. And it was originally designed for a video gaming – amazing.

Alex Kipman is considered to be the inventor of Kinect. During his presentation of HoloLens he proudly mentioned the new HPU (Holographic Processing Unit). According to him, this processing unit can track the user’s sight and gestures and also calculate the surrounding. What do you think about this new CPU?

Sensor technology, especially in image sensors, needs to process insane amounts of data. Just look at autonomous driving for example. These cars capture their whole surrounding with cameras, the results are terabytes of data! HoloLens is similar. If you want to create a smooth experience for the user, without the need of connecting a huge desktop tower by cable, you bet that this CPU has got power.

Google Glass only weights about 55 gram. Will a technology like HoloLens ever fit into a frame of a Smartglass?

Yes, this time will come. The hardware used in Google Glass is old. In fact, it was already old when Google started the Explorer Program. The hardware of today is much more advanced.

About a week ago before Microsoft revealed HoloLens Google announced the end of the Explorer Program for Google Glass and also a management change for the product. What is Microsoft’s take away and what could they do better than Google?

The Explorer Program was really important, because Google raised awareness for Smart Glasses. What was really stupid was the whole communication between Google and the Glass Explorers. Google didn’t even consider to give Kudos to those who spent a lot of money and also time on the product. Not even a single email in advance before the announcement. That was really disappointing.

You have been participating in the Explorer Program yourself. What’s your final conclusion?

I shared my pain in my own blog and encountered a lot of headwind. People said “Stop cryin’, why did you even buy this in the beginning!” or “Told you this is beta!”. I knew that too! In my life I probably participated in more beta tests than those who commented on my blog even heard the word “beta test”! I’m not stupid. But I just expect much more from a beta program. Especially because I participated in so many and experienced a lot of support for the developers and testers.  Other programs did really build up communities through a lot of communication. That’s something that was completely missing in the Glass Explorers Community.

How did the geek scene react to Google’s announcement?

I met with a lot of Glass Explorers, and they all felt the same. But no one did wear those glasses anymore anyway. Three weeks ago I was attending Robert Scoble’s 50th birthday party in Napa Valley.  About 200 influencers showed up, and you bet that a minimum of 50 owns a Google Glass. But whomever I spoke with, none of them was using theirs since quite a while now. The initial excitement was about the possibilities, but what you could do with Google Glass in it’s current version was pretty dull. 99 percent of the Glass Explorers had a very limited user experience with those glasses. Personally, I already gave up on those.

Why does anyone need Google Glass at all?

I did test those glasses for more than a year. I realized that most of the tasks could be completed much better with Smartwatches rather than Smartglasses. Vibration alarm notifies me about incoming stuff, I don’t need additional things in my sight for this. An exciting project, but nothing for the average user. It works much better for someone in a warehouse who needs both hands and is scanning QR codes in addition. This is the crucial point with Google Glass: Every action is completed in a few seconds. But why should I wear these glasses 10 hours a day for completing 5-second-tasks? Work-related this works, for consumers it doesn’t.  

Yesterday Google announced a new version of Google Glass. What do you think about it?

The CEO of Nest is leading the development and strengthened his team with Mary Lou Jepsen, a good friend of mine who used to live here in Taiwan. She is an expert on displays and knows how to build low-power, sunlight-readable screens. With a team as strong as this Google will create a whole new experience, and I am looking forward to that.

Euphoria aside, especially in Germany people worry about data privacy. They are afraid of cameras like the one in Google Glass capturing them permanently. Are they right?

When I used to wear it on events a lot of people asked me „You don’t record a video of mine, do you?“. Why should I do that? These people were simply of no interest to me at all. This is bullshit and typical German Angst. In every bus and on every corner you got cameras, and no one cares about those. And those do all record! If you go through the city center of Berlin these days I bet each step of yours is on CCTV. No one cares! But they care about glasses. Paradoxical!  

Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens supplement real-world environment with computer-generated data, this is being referred to as Augmented Reality. But the user always sees the real-world around him with his own eyes. Project Morpheus from Sony or Oculus Rift from Facebook are different. The user dives into a whole Virtual Reality with them. Which technology you think is going to win?

Thanks to Facebook’s acquisition of  Oculus they have a lot of money now. They will create a completely new cinema experience. The viewer will become part of the movie. It is difficult to image at the moment, one being in the middle of a scene.. but this will come. Sony has a lot of options, with their studios and the PlayStation Network they have the infrastructure to create and broadcast content. It’s difficult to say whom is going to win. It’s like VHS, Video2000 and Betamax. The past proved that not the best technology necessarily wins, but the best content.

Which content do you think is important?

I'm tempted to say: “Now go and create a porn experience!”. Every technology did break through because of porn. This will be one type of content, and it will be a mega seller. No doubt about it. VHS did win because of the great amount of available porn movies, although Video 2000 or Betamax were technically more advanced. Paywalls and video streaming in the internet were also established because of the porn industry. They did drive these technologies so they roll out to the mass market. Whomever offers movies, games and porn will make it.