What is the HoloToolkit, and why you should be using it.

Introduction

I have been noticing a trend in the Windows Mixed Reality development community regarding the use of the HoloToolkit: It seems you either use the HoloToolkit, and swear by having it in your projects, or you don’t, either because you are not aware of it, or don’t understand how it’s designed to help. (This is a generalization, but based on a lot of conversations with developers, it seems to hold fairly true.)

What is the HoloToolkit?

The HoloToolkit is an open source project that is controlled and maintained by Microsoft and hosted on GitHub. The original commit to the project was made on January 28, 2016, which was actually a few months before the HoloLens was released to general developers via the Wave process. The project was initially used in support of the Microsoft Academy Tutorials for HoloLens, however as is the nature of open source projects, the HoloToolkit rapidly started to evolve, faster than the Academy Tutorials could be updated. This has caused some confusion for new developers who follow the tutorials, and then run into difficulty when they go attempt to recreate the tutorials in their own projects using the HoloToolkit and find it to be very different.

At the time of writing this post, there have been 1,454 commits to the project. The project has been broken out into sections based on functionality. Some of the sections include Input, Spatial Mapping, Spatial Understanding, Sharing, Utilities, etc.

Why you should use the HoloToolkit

The HoloToolkit allows you to rapidly implement sections of your project in a consistent and standard way. Some of the things the HoloToolkit can do to save you time and effort include the following:
  • Setting all project settings needed for Mixed Reality Development.
  • Setting all scene settings needed for Mixed Reality Development.
  • Allowing one click build and deploy directly from Unity.
  • Provides standard interfaces to implement input.
  • Provides prefabs for spatial mapping and understanding to allow those to be used quickly and easily.
  • Provides optimized shaders and materials for use with HoloLens
There are lots of other reasons for using the HoloToolkit, these are just among the most useful to me.

Conclusion

I am a very big believer and proponent of the HoloToolkit. In my opinion if you are not using it for your development on the Windows Mixed Reality Platform, you are doing yourself a massive disservice, and making it much more likely that you will introduce a bug into your application while solving a problem or implementing a solution that has already been solved.

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