DIY HoloLens

a preview of the future of Augmented Reality

or: Virtual Reality with a transparent background

Januari 2016

Are you (like me) too curious to wait for Microsofts' launch of their new augmented reality viewer HoloLens? And/or you can't afford the $3000 price?

Although this do-it-yourself preview of the device will be minimalistic (as it lacks the Kinect-like features of the real HoloLens) it gives you a glimpse of what it feels like to walk through an immersive augmented reality environment.


1) Order the "Universe2Go" star viewer goggles

2) Load some adapted Virtual Reality content on your smartphone (rotated 90°)

3) Insert your smartphone in the viewer and look around

4) Optional: cut out an anti-reflection shield to enlighten the image

Remark: the $99 Universe2Go viewer is a out-of-the-box VR unit with a properly configured pair of special mirrors to produce a different image for each eye to create a real 3D hologram effect. This will be the best option for you if you want to get started quickly, if you don't have a 3D-printer and/or if you don't want to experiment with distances, lenses and perspective issues yourself. If you -do- want to explore the 100% DIY way, check out Sean Hall's instruction on how to 3D-print a hologram viewer.


The easiest way to get started with creating content for this viewer is to adapt some of the Google Chrome VR samples. It only takes minor changes to flip all content 90° which is necessary because the smartphone is positioned horizontally inside this viewer.

Add a listener to the Javascript code:

window.addEventListener("deviceorientation", handleOrientation, true);

function handleOrientation(event) {
absolute = event.absolute;
alpha = event.alpha;
beta = event.beta;
gamma = event.gamma; }

And add this inside the render function:

function render(dt) {
camera.rotation.x = 0-gamma/360*Math.PI * 2;
camera.rotation.y = alpha/360*Math.PI * 2;
camera.rotation.z = Math.PI * 2;

Check out my adapted three.js implementation here:


What content is appropriate to be viewed this way? The viewer offers a 360 panorama with 3D perspective. The compass orientation can be used to position objects in a certain direction, based on the users' presence in a certain area or vicinity of a GPS-hotspot. Unfortunately, marker-based augmented reality or object recognition is not yet possible in this configuration because the smartphone cannot operate its front-facing camera.

Another issue to consider: the device does not work with bright sunlight.

stereo mode - see real depth!

location-based storytelling

floating tv-screen

life size virtual content


What's next?

Being a creator of various location-aware augmented reality experiences, I'm now working on converting those smartphone-based applications to run on this device.

It's time to say goodbye to the smartphone-based AR experience!