Experiments with Shared Holograms and Azure Blob Storage/UDP Multicasting (Part 6)

NB: The usual blog disclaimer for this site applies to posts around HoloLens. I am not on the HoloLens team. I have no details on HoloLens other than what is on the public web and so what I post here is just from my own experience experimenting with pieces that are publicly available and you should always check out the official developer site for the product documentation.

A follow-up to my previous post around experiments with shared holograms using Azure blob storage and UDP multicasting techniques.

I doubt that anyone’s following along in great detail Smile but at the end of “Part 2” in this little series of posts I had ended the post with a bit of a “to do” list on my experiments which was as below;

  • Create objects other than primitives – I added something around this in Part 3.
  • Transform objects after they are created – I added something around this in Part 4 and Part 5.
  • Have some ‘memory’ of messages that a client has missed such that not all clients have to joint a scene at the same time.

I wanted to return and make some notes on that last point around a ‘memory’.

Prior to this post, I’ve set up some scripts and a library such that code based on my scripts running on one HoloLens device can be used to dynamically instantiate holograms in various places around the physical world and the scripts make it relatively easy to;

  • Create a shared hologram
    • A simple Create() API takes the type of the hologram and its position, scale which…
      • Creates the hologram
      • Automatically parents it from a world-anchored object such that no hologram is more than 3m from its world anchor, dynamically creating and anchoring the parent if necessary.
      • Exports the details of any newly created anchor to Azure blob storage.
      • Multicasts a message around the network to let other devices respond and create their own replica of the hologram using the world anchor downloaded from Azure etc.
      • Optionally attaches a ‘behaviour’ which will multicast changes to the local position, rotation, scale of the hologram around the network on some frequency so that changes made to those values will reflect across all the devices.
  • Delete a shared hologram
    • A simple Delete() API which…
      • Removes the object from the scene
      • Multicasts a message around the network to let other devices remove the object locally.

and that all seems to work reasonably well.

However, there’s a lack of ‘memory’ in the sense that if an app based on this code was to run on one device and take actions such as creating, transforming, deleting holograms prior to the app running on a second device then there’s no mechanism via which that second device can join the scene and catch up with what’s been happening on the first device.

There’s no way to sync beyond having all the apps running at the same time which isn’t very realistic.

I wanted to try and address this – there’s no doubt lots of different ways of doing it but I considered;

  • Adding some centralised state such that some blob/table in the cloud records the current state of play and any device can update/query it at any time
  • Adding some centralised state such that one ‘master’ device maintains a list that can be queried by other devices
  • Making minimal changes such that the de-centralised state already present on each device can be used to reconstruct the scene on a newly-arrived device

I went with the 3rd option as it felt like a relatively small change to what I already had in my code.

With that in mind, I didn’t make any changes to my MessagingLibrary project but I added new messages into the Unity project;


With the essential scheme being something along the lines of;

  • When a device first runs up it creates a GUID to identify itself and multicasts a NewDeviceAnnouncementMessage
  • Other devices respond to those messages by replying with a ExistingDeviceMessage which contains their own ID
  • A new device that receives such responses within the first few seconds of start-up can choose one of the replies and construct a SceneRequestMessage and multicast it (it contains both the destination device ID and the source device ID)
  • The device that receives the SceneRequestMessage multicasts back a sequence of SceneResponseObjectMessage messages, one for each shared hologram in the scene. These messages also contain the intended recipient device ID so that other devices can ignore them.

The SceneResponseObjectMessage is essentially the same as the initial CreatedObjectMessage which is multicast when the Create() API creates a shared hologram and so the handling of those messages doesn’t require lots of new code – it’s the same code that would handle the creation messages if the receiving app had been alive at the time that the holograms were created.

The changes to send/receive/process these messages then become relatively minor and the code’s up to date on github.

I also updated the console-based test application that I’ve been using to test out the code when only running with one HoloLens although I must admit that the code in that application is perhaps only really usable by me – it’d need some detailed explanation for someone else to pick it up and figure out what the heck I had in mind for using this test application but it has helped a lot along the way.

I’m not planning to add more code into this series of posts. The only addition that I’d like to make (beyond testing properly on multiple devices Smile) is to add a better test scene.

The one that I have in the Unity project really is only there for me to test out my code, I’d like to replace it with one that someone coming new to this code could easily run, understand and use to get a basic shared hologram app up and running on multiple devices in a short time. If I get a chance to look into this then I’ll add one more post to this series when I’ve got that new test scene put in place…

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