13 August 2019

Migrating to MRTK2–interacting with the Spatial Map


One of the HoloLens’ great features is the ability to interact with real physical objects. This allows apps to place holograms on or adjacent to real objects, enables occlusion (the ability to let holograms appear to be hidden because they disappear behind physical objects), etc. This is all done using the Spatial Map, a graphical representation of whatever the HoloLens has observed to be present in the physical reality. Interacting with the Spatial map used to be easy – and it actually still isn't that hard, it’s just that - as with most of the things in the MRTK2 - quite some cheese has been moved

This blog post handles a common and a not so common scenario for interacting with the Spatial Map:

  1. Placing objects on the Spatial Map
  2. Programmatically enabling and disabling/clearing the Spatial Map

I have included a demo project that allows you to place cylinders on the Spatial Map by air tapping - and you can turn the Spatial Map on and off using a floating button.

Placing objects on the Spatial Map, MRKT2 style

I wrote about this already in November 2017 in my article about finding the floor using a HoloLens. In MRTK2, that process is a bit much different. Create a raycast from the Camera along the camera viewing angle and try to hit the Spatial Map. For this, you need the Spatial Map Layer mask. In the HoloToolkit you could simply access.


to get to that layer mask. Finding that now is a wee bit more complicated. You see, first, you need to extract the configuration from the Spatial Awareness System service like this:

var spatialMappingConfig =
CoreServices.SpatialAwarenessSystem.ConfigurationProfile as

The spatial mapping config contains a property called ObserverConfigurations containing a list of of configurations (apparently taking provisions there might actually be more than one configuration). For each configuration you can take the profile from it's ObserverProfile property - that you have to cast to MixedRealitySpatialAwarenessMeshObserverProfile. Then you find the layer used by this config in it's MeshPhysicsLayer property.

I repeat - you can find the layer.

That is not the layer mask. It took me quite some time debugging to find out what was going on here - because if you feed that layer number into the raycast, it won't 'see' the Spatial Map. I have no idea why this was changed. Anyway, to get the layer mask, as required by raycast methods, you have to bit shift the actual layer number, like this

1 << observerProfile.MeshPhysicsLayer

So what used to be a single property, now requires this method:

private static int GetSpatialMeshMask()
    if (_meshPhysicsLayer == 0)
        var spatialMappingConfig = 
          CoreServices.SpatialAwarenessSystem.ConfigurationProfile as
        if (spatialMappingConfig != null)
            foreach (var config in spatialMappingConfig.ObserverConfigurations)
                var observerProfile = config.ObserverProfile
                    as MixedRealitySpatialAwarenessMeshObserverProfile;
                if (observerProfile != null)
                    _meshPhysicsLayer |= (1 << observerProfile.MeshPhysicsLayer);

    return _meshPhysicsLayer;

private static int _meshPhysicsLayer = 0;

And I added a static backing variable to speed up this process, otherwise this whole loop will be run 60 times a second in my TapToPlaceController, as well as every time you air tap to place a cylinder.

The method to find a point on the Spatial Map simply is then simply this:

public static Vector3? GetPositionOnSpatialMap(float maxDistance = 2)
    RaycastHit hitInfo;
    var transform = CameraCache.Main.transform;
    var headRay = new Ray(transform.position, transform.forward);
    if (Physics.Raycast(headRay, out hitInfo, maxDistance, GetSpatialMeshMask()))
        return hitInfo.point;
    return null;

This sits in the updated LookingDirectionHelpers class. In the demo project you can see how it is actually used.

In the TapToPlaceController, the Update method will flip the text from “Please look at the spatial map max 2m ahead of you" to "Tap to select a location" when the gaze strikes the Spatial Map (and the Spatial Map ONLY, not another hologram).

protected override void Update()
    _instructionTextMesh.text =
         LookingDirectionHelpers.GetPositionOnSpatialMap(_maxDistance) != null ?
         "Tap to select a location" : _lookAtSurfaceText;

If you then air tap, it will place a squatted cylinder on the spatial map at the place you are looking to. This is done in the OnPointerDown method - using the same call to LookingDirectionHelpers.GetPositionOnSpatialMap to get a point to place the cylinder.

You will notice a floating cube as well. You can't place a cylinder on the cube - it only finds the Spatial Map. Demonstrating that you can't place a cylinder on it, is the cube's sole purpose ;). What might happen is that you place a cylinder behind the cube on the Spatial Map, if your opposite wall is closer than 2 meters. It requires additional logic to handle that situation, but that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

Starting, stopping and clearing the Spatial map

For some apps, most notably my AMS HoloATC app, the Spatial Map is used to help getting an initial place to put an object but then it needs to go away, as to not get the view blocked by occlusion. Making the Spatial Map transparent sometimes helps, but then still the walls get in the way of selecting objects as they block the gaze and other cursors. Long story short – it is sometimes desirable to be able to turn the Spatial map on and off. And this is actually pretty simple:

public void ToggleSpatialMap()
     if( CoreServices.SpatialAwarenessSystem != null)
         if( IsObserverRunning )

Note that “ClearObservations” is necessary, as merely calling Suspend only stops the updating of the Spatial Map – the graphic representation still stays active. This was actually added after feedback from yours truly ;)

As to checking whether or not the observer is / observers are actually running I have devised this little trick

private bool IsObserverRunning
         var providers =
         return providers.FirstOrDefault()?.IsRunning == true;

I check if there’s an observer and assume that if the first one is running, so is probably the rest. Although in practice, on a HoloLens, there will be only one observer running anyway.

You can activate and de-activate the Spatial Map by pressing the floating button, where the SpatialMapToggler behaviour is attached to.


If you run and deploy the demo project you will find a button floating before you (in the direction that you looked when the app started) that you can use to toggle the Spatial Map, and to the right a little cube. In addition, a text floating in your vision instructs you either to look at the spatial map or air tap when you actually do – and then a cylinder will appear. Like this in this little video:

30 July 2019

Fixing error Failed to locate “CL.exe” or MSB8020 when deploying IL2CPP solution


You have created a Unity project to create an app using MRTK2, and you want to use the new IL2CPP backend. You open the solution in Visual Studio 2019, you try to deploy it by using Build/Deploy and all the way at the end the compiler complains about “CL.exe” missing.

Alternatively, you might get the slightly more verbose error:

error MSB8020: The build tools for Visual Studio 2017 (Platform Toolset = 'v141') cannot be found. To build using the v141 build tools, please install Visual Studio 2017 build tools.  Alternatively, you may upgrade to the current Visual Studio tools by selecting the Project menu or right-click the solution, and then selecting "Retarget solution".


You have most likely used the the recommended Unity version (2018.4.2f1) to create the project. This version – the name gives it away – was released before Visual Studio 2019, and therefore assumes the presence of Visual Studio 2017 and it’s accompanying C++ tools set, ‘V141’. So Unity generated a C++ solution referencing that tool set.

But now it’s 2019, you have kissed Visual Studio 2017 goodbye, installed Visual Studio 2019. And that comes with tool set V142.


Either you install V141 using the Visual Studio Installer, or you tell the generated solution to use V142. I personally prefer the last one, because newer is always better right ;)

Simply right-click the project in the solution that has “(Universal Windows)” behind it’s name, select properties, tab general and then the problem is already pretty evident:

Simply select Visual Studio 2019 (142) for Project Toolset and you are good to go. This setting will stay as long as you don’t delete the generated project – Unity will simply change what needs to be changed, and leave as much as it can (to speed up the generation process).


Simple fix, but can be hard to find. Hence a simple blog about it

29 July 2019

Minimal required software for MRTK2 development for HoloLens 2 and Immersive headsets


A short one this time – and codeless to. You see, next Saturday I will be giving an workshop for MixUG Netherlands about development with the Mixed Reality Toolkit 2 for Immersive headsets, together with my colleague, partner in crime and fellow MVP Alexander Meijers. One of the things that came up preparing for this workshop was what you would actually need to develop with the Mixed Reality Toolkit 2. Since ye olden days of the HoloToolkit, quite a few things have changed – Unity, the minimal OS version, and there’s even a new version of Visual Studio. So I set out to complete a minimal shopping list with a few optional items. Fortunately, our friends over at Microsoft Azure make it quite simple to spin up a totally pristine machine so you don’t run into the typical developer machine issues – multiple versions of Visual Studio with different workloads and a myriad of Unity versions – which makes it hard to tell sometimes what is required for what app.

OS version

Easy one. Windows 10, 1809 or (recommended) 1903. Everything I tested, I tested on Windows 10 Pro

Visual Studio

You will need Visual Studio 2019 community edition. 2017 will work too, but is much slower. Download Visual Studio 2019 community from this link and choose the following work loads:

  • UWP development with optional components USB connectivity and C++ (V142) UWP tools checked
  • Game development with Unity with the optional component 2018.3 64-bit editor unchecked

In images:

Make sure you install Visual Studio before Unity.

Offline installer

A fun trick – if you want to make an offline installer for the community edition for these particular workloads, open a command prompt after downloading the installer, and type (on one line):

vs_community.exe --layout c:\vsinstaller
--add Microsoft.VisualStudio.Workload.ManagedGame
--add Microsoft.VisualStudio.Workload.Universal
--add Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.Windows10SDK.IpOverUsb
--add Microsoft.VisualStudio.ComponentGroup.UWP.VC --lang en-US

In c:\vsinstaller you will then find a complete install ‘layout’ for all the necessary components. Might be useful if you want to prepare multiple computers.


2018.4.2f1, taken from ProjectSettings/ProjectVersion.txt in the mrtk_development branch. This particular version can be downloaded directly from this link.

Choose as minimal components

  • Unity 2018.4.2f1
  • UWP Build Support

Mind you – this sets you op for HoloLens 2 and Windows Mixed Reality Immersive headsets only.

Optional – HoloLens 2 emulator

I have already written extensively about it. You can get it here. Be aware that it requires Hyper-V being installed. If you have installed Windows 10 1903, it will run right away. On 1809 you will need some trickery.


It’s not that hard to get up and running for MRTK2 development for HoloLens 2 and Windows Mixed Reality Immersive headsets. And now you have a nice complete ‘shopping list’ for when you want to prepare your PC.

14 July 2019

Migrating to MRTK2–manipulating holograms by grabbing


To be honest, the title of this blog post is a bit weird, because in Mixed Reality Toolkit 1 the concept of grabbing was unknown, as HoloLens 1 does not support this kind of gestures. But nevertheless, as I am on this quest of documenting all the gems I discover while migrating an existing app to Mixed Reality Toolkit 2, this is one of the things I came across so I am shoehorning it in this blog post series – the 8th installment of it already. And the fun thing about this one if that although there is a demo project available, I am going to write no code at all. The whole concept of manipulation by grabbing can be done by simply dragging MRTK2 components on top of a game object.

'Far manipulation'

This is really extremely simple. If I want to make a cube draggable in the 'classic' sense - that is, point a cursor to it, pinch and move my hand, and then the cube follows, all you have to do is add a ManipulationHandler to the cube, with default settings:

And then you simply point the 'hand ray' to it, pinch and move:

But as you could see, I can only drag it. I can't move it anymore - or rotate - as my hand comes closer, like at the end of the movie. I fact, I can't do anything anymore.

Allow grabbing and moving

For that, we will need to add another script: Near Interaction Grabbable.

And now, if the hand comes close to the cube, you can do all kinds of crazy stuff with it

Some settings to consider

  • If you don't want to allow 'far manipulation' (the first type) but only want to allow the manipulation by grapping, you can uncheck the "Allow Far Manipulation" on the ManipulationHandler.
  • If you want to see where the actual grab connection point is, check the "Show Tether When Manipulating" checkbox on Near Interaction Grabbable. This will look like this:

I bet there are more settings to consider, but I haven't tried those yet (or felt the need to do so).


The code of this completely code-less sample can be found here. I can't wait to add code like this to real-world HoloLens 2 projects. But alas, we still need to wait for the device :)

09 July 2019

Migrating to MRTK2– handling tap, touch and focus ‘manually’ (in code)

Wait a minute – you did handle tap before, right?

Indeed, dear reader, I did. But I also had signed up for a MixUG session on Wednesday July 3. And while making demos for that I learned some other ways to handle interaction. Once again it shows that the best way to learn things is to try to teach them – because the need to explain things induces the need to actually obtain a deeper knowledge.

Ye olde way

In the MRTK 1, it was thus:

  • Handle tap – implement IInputClickHandler
  • Handle drag – implement IManipulationHandler
  • Handle focus – implement
  • Handle touch – forget it. ;)

The new way

In the MRTK 2 it is now

  • Handle tap – implement IMixedRealityPointerHandler
  • Handle drag – see above
  • Handle focus – implement IMixedRealityFocusHandler
  • Handle touch – IMixedRealityTouchHandler

Now I am going to ignore drag for this tutorial, and concentrate me on tap, focus and touch


This requires you to implement four methods:

  • OnPointerDown
  • OnPointerDragged
  • OnPointerUp
  • OnPointerClicked

OnPointerClicked basically intercept a tap or an air tap, and will work as such as you deploy the demo project to a HoloLens 1. After being bitten by people tapping just a tiny bit to slow and therefore not getting response, I tend to implement OnPointerDown rather than OnPointerClicked to capture a 'tap' event, but that's a matter of preference.


You will need to implement:

  • OnFocusEnter
  • OnFocusExit

The method names are the same as in MRKT1, only the signatures not - you now get a parameter of type FocusEventData which does give you some more information - by what the object was focused (we have multiple ways of doing that now!), what the previous focused object was, and what the new focused object is.


This requires you to implement

  • OnTouchStarted
  • OnTouchCompleted
  • OnTouchUpdated

But there is a twist to that. As we will soon see.


To show off how it all works, I have created a little demo project. You can run it either in the emulator or the Unity editor (or a HoloLens 2, if you are in the HoloLens team and part some very few selected parties - I am unfortunately neither).

I have created a little script CodedInteractionResponder that shows off how this works. This script implements all the three interfaces I just wrote about. If you open the demo project in Unity show itself like this. All three cubes have the script attached to them.

The text above the cubes will show how much times a cube has been either focused, touched or clicked. I you press play and then the space bar, the right hand will appear (or use ctrl for the left hand). Moving the hand can be done by using the mouse - if you move the hand ray over the cubes it will trigger a focus event, if you tap the left mouse button you will trigger a tap, and if you move the hand towards the cube (using the WASD keys) it will trigger a touch event.

That is to say - you would expect that. But that is not always the case

What happens is this:

  • You can click or focus the green cube, but you cannot touch it. Nothing happens if you try.
  • You can click, focus or touch the red cube, but if you touch it, the number of times it's clicked is increasing. Not the number of touches.
  • Only the blue cube works as expected.

Yet they all have the CodedInteractionResponder. How does this compute?


The best way to explain this, is an image showing the bottom half of all the three cubes

The green cube misses the NearInteractionTouchable. This script is necessary to have touch events being fired at all. So unlike IMixedRealityPointerHandler and IMixedRealityFocusHandler, where a mere implementation of the interface will trigger an event, a touch event - that is, methods in IMixedRealityTouchHandler being called - requires the addition of a NearInteractionTouchable script.

And NearInteractionTouchable has another trick up it's sleeve. Suppose you have a button - whether it's (air) tapped or actually touched/pressed, you want to activate the same code. If you change "Events to Receive" from it's default "Touch" to "Pointer" (as I did with the red cube) touching the cube will actually trigger a pointer event. This saves you a few lines of code. So basically NearInteractionTouchable can act as a kind of event router. And this is why the red cube never shows a touch event - but a click event instead.

Be aware NearInteractionTouchable needs a collider to work on. This collider needs to be on the same object the script is on. So if you make an empty game object as a hat stand for a a bunch of smaller game objects, make sure to manually add a collider that envelops all game objects, otherwise the 'touch' won't seem to work.

What, no code?

Yes, there is code, but it's pretty straightforward and if you want to have a look at CodeInteractionResponder, have a look in GitHub. It's actually so simple I felt it a little bit overdone to verbatim repeat parts in this blog post itself.

19 June 2019

Migrating to MRTK2 - missing Singleton and 3DTextPrefab


If you are migrating from the HoloToolkit to Mixed Reality Toolkit 2 'cold turkey', as I am doing for my AMS HoloATC app, a lot of things break, as I already said in the first post of this series. For things that you can tap, you can simply change the implementing interface from IInputClickHandler or IManipulationHandler to a couple of other interface and change the signature a bit - that's not complex, only tedious, depending on how much you have used it.

What I found really hard was the removal of the Singleton class and the 3DTextFab. I used both quite extensively. The first one I needed for like data access classes as the concept of services that was introduced in the Mixed Reality Toolkit 2  was not yet available, and the other... well basically all my texts were 3DTextPrefabs so any kind of user feedback in text format was gone. Because so much breaks at the same time, it's very hard to step by step rebuilding your app to a working condition. Basically you have to change everything before something starts to work again. Since I was still learning by doing, there was no way to test if I was doing things more or less right. I got stuck, and took a radical approach.

Introducing HoloToolkitCompatiblityPack

I have created a little Unity Package that contains the things that made it hard for me to get a step-by-step migration to the MRTK2 and christened it the HoloToolkitCompatiblityPack. It contains minimal amount of scripts and meta files to have Singleton and 3DTextFab working inside an MRTK2 built app. As I will be migrating more apps, I will probably update the package with other classes that I need. You can find the package file here and the project here. If you take your existing HoloToolkit based app, yank out the HoloToolkit, replace it by the MRTK2, then import the HoloToolkitCompatiblityPack package, you at least have to fix a few less things to at least get your app to a minimal state of function again.

Caveat emptor

Yes, of course you can use the HoloToolkitCompatiblityPack in your production app, and ship a kind of Frankenbuild using both MRTK2 and this. Do let yourself be tempted to do that. See this package as a kind of scaffolding, or a temporary beam to hold up the roof while you are replacing a bearing wall. For 3DTextFab I tend to turn a blind eye, but please don't use Singleton again. Convert those classes into services one by one. Then remove the Singleton from the HoloToolkitCompatiblityPack to make sure everything works without. This is for migration purposes only.

Take the high road, not the low technical debt road.


Making this package helped me forward with the migration quite a lot. I hope it helps other too. I'd love to hear some feedback on this.

29 May 2019

Migrating to MRTK2 - looking a bit closer at tapping, and trapping 'duplicate' events


In my previous post I wrote about how game objects can be made clickable (or 'tappable') using the Mixed Reality Toolkit 2, and how things changed from MRTK1. And in fact, when you deploy the app to a HoloLens 1, my demo actually works as intended. But then I noticed something odd in the editor, and made a variant of the app that went with the previous blog post to see how things work- or might work- in HoloLens 2.

Debugging ClickyThingy ye olde way

Like I wrote before, it's possible to debug the C# code of a running IL2CPP C++ app running on a HoloLens. To debug using breakpoints is a bit tricky when you are dealing with rapidly firing event - stopping through the debugger might actually have some influence on the order events play out. So I resorted to the good old "Console.WriteLine-style" of debugging, and added a floating text in the app that shows what's going on.

The ClickableThingy behaviour I made in the previous post then looks like this:

using Microsoft.MixedReality.Toolkit.Input;
using System;
using TMPro;
using UnityEngine;

public class ClickableThingyGlobal : BaseInputHandler, IMixedRealityInputHandler
    private TextMeshPro _debugText;

    public void OnInputUp(InputEventData eventData)
        GetComponent<MeshRenderer>().material.color = Color.white;
        AddDebugText("up", eventData);

    public void OnInputDown(InputEventData eventData)
        GetComponent<MeshRenderer>().material.color = Color.red;
        AddDebugText("down", eventData);

    private void AddDebugText( string eventPrefix, InputEventData eventData)
        if( _debugText == null)
        var description = eventData.MixedRealityInputAction.Description;
        _debugText.text += 
            $"{eventPrefix} {gameObject.name} : {description}{Environment.NewLine}";

Now in the HoloLens 1, things are exactly like you expect. Air tapping the sphere activates Up and Down events exactly once for every tap (because the Cube gets every tap, even when you don't gaze at it - see my previous post for an explanation)

When you run the same code in the editor, though, you get a different result:

Tap versus Grip - and CustomPropertyDrawers

The interesting thing is, when you 'air tap' in the editor (using the space bar and the left mouse button), thumb and index finger of the simulated hand come together. This, now, is recognized as a tap followed by a grip, apparently.

So we need to filter the events coming in through OnInputUp and OnInputDown to respond to the actual events we want. This is where things get a little bit unusual - there is no enumeration of sorts that you can use to compare you actual event against. The available events are all in the configuration, so they are dynamically created.

The way to do some actual filtering is to add a property of type MixedRealityInputAction to your behaviour (I used _desiredInputAction). Then the MRTK2 automatically creates a drop down with possible to events to select from:

How does this magic work? Well, the MRTK2 contains a CustomPropertyDrawer called InputActionPropertyDrawer that automatically creates this drop down whenever you add a property of type MixedRealityInputAction to your behaviour. The values in this list are pulled from the configuration. This fits with the idea of the MRTK2 that everything must be configurable ad infinitum. Which is cool but sometimes it makes things confusing.

Anyway, you select the event you want to test for in the UI, in this case "Select":

And then you have to check if the event methods if the event matches your desired event.

if (eventData.MixedRealityInputAction != _desiredInputAction)

And then everything works as you expect: only the select event results in an action by the app.

How about HoloLens 2?

I could only test this in the emulator. The odd things is, even without the check on the input action, only the select action was fired, even when I pinched the hand using the control pane:

So I have no idea if this is actually necessary on a real live HoloLens 2, but my friends and fellow MVPs Stephen Hodgson and Simon 'Darkside' Jackson have both mentioned this kind of event type check as being necessary in a few on line conversations (although I then did not understand why). So I suppose it is :)


Common wisdom has it that the best thing about teaching is that you learn a lot yourself. This post is excellent proof of that wisdom. If you think this here old MVP is the end-all and know-all of this kind of stuff, think again. I knew of customer editors, but I literally just learned the concept of CustomPropertyDrawer while I was writing this post. I had no idea it existed, but I found it  because I wanted to know how the heck the editor got all the possible MixedRealityInputAction from the configuration and show that in such a neat list. Took me quite some searching, actually - which is logical, if you don't know what exactly you are looking for ;).

I hope this benefits you as well. Demo project here (branch TapCloseLook).