Setting up a Development Environment for HoloLens

Blog Posts ,HoloLens ,Tutorials ,Unity
July 28, 2016

Buckle in, folks! I’m going through the process of setting up my HoloLens Developer Environment so that I can start building with the HoloLens Emulator. I’m basing this off of the absolute bare minimum from the install guides and getting started over at the HoloLens Developer site, and I’ve skipped over a few of the non-necessary steps, but I definitely recommend checking those out for best practices that this is missing. This post is designed to get you up and running as quickly as possible, so that you can be building for HoloLens even without a device!


Let’s level the playing field with some PC stats. I’m trying this out on my desktop, which is a custom build I did last year and have been upgrading a bit obsessively over the past several months:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4790K @ 4.00GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • Windows 10 Pro Edition (this is important!), x64
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 1080
  • Disk Space for huge 3D projects
  • Sweet-ass, candy colored, blue switch mechanical keyboard (optional, but important for ultimate “hacker sound effects”)

Okay, on to the software stuff. For HoloLens development, you’ll need to do a few things:

Install The Tools (Link)

  • Turn on Developer Mode on your PC. In ‘System Settings’, under ‘Update and Security’, there is a section called ‘For developers’. You’ll want to check the last item on the list to put your computer into Developer mode, which will allow you to run the apps that you’re building
  • Install Visual Studio 2015 with Update 3 if you haven’t already. If you’re an individual experimenting and building things without a team, you can get Community edition for free. When you download and install Visual Studio, you should include the option to install the Windows Universal Platform tools, which will also install the Windows 10 SDK.
  • Pick up the Unity Technical Preview for HoloLens – this is not the same as the standard 5.4 beta, and can be installed next to the version of Unity that you’re currently using.
  • Grab the Windows 10 (Universal) package from Unity. If you’ve used Unity before, you’ll probably remember that you had the option to select your Build packages when you installed the core executable – that’s not the case for this, so you’ll need to make sure that you have this installed separately for the -HTP (this specifies that it’s the HoloLens beta) version of Unity
  • Pick up the HoloLens emulator and install that beautiful thing. This is why you need Windows (10) Pro: Home editions of Windows don’t support Hyper-V, the underlying virtualization layer for the technology, and the emulator will set up a nice virtual machine complete with HoloLens interactivity for you to test your apps on.

Once you’ve got that all installed, it’s time to move into the fun part – getting the basics set up in a project and setting up the build process! Since HoloLens is a Windows 10 device, we’ll be building to a Windows Universal project from Unity, but first, let’s get our scene set up to support what we’ll need for HoloLens apps to work.

Build a Basic Scene (Link)

When building for HoloLens, we’ll need to make a few adjustments to the basic settings in Unity to make use of the holographic elements on the device. To start, we’ll need to specify what part of the scene is invisible by setting the clear flags to represent where we will see our physical environment on the headset. On the emulator, this will just be a solid color that indicates where you’d be seeing the physical world around you if it were on the device.

Select the Main Camera in your scene, set it to 0,0,0, and change the Clear Flags option to “Solid Color” and change the color to black. Stick something else in your scene (this will be your ‘hologram’ – I chose a kitten) and it’ll be time for the first build!


Before we build our project, we’re going to want to change a couple of settings in Unity to make it show up the way we want it to in the application, but we need to start by heading into the Build window and selecting ‘Windows Store’ as our Build target. Change the SDK to ‘Universal 10’ and the build type as D3D. Open up the Player Settings > Other Settings and check ‘Virtual Reality Supported’, and make sure that Windows Holographic shows up as the listed Virtual Reality SDK.

When you click Build, unlike some types of Unity applications, we’re not going to get an entirely packaged application in a run-able form – instead, we’re going to be generating a Visual Studio project to launch our application from. Check the box that says “Unity C# Projects” and add your scene to the build.

The outcome of this is a Visual Studio project, so we’re going to switch development environments and start up the Visual Studio project (.sln file) for our Holographic test. At the top of Visual Studio, change the target architecture from ARM to x86, and ‘Local Machine’ to ‘HoloLens Emulator’.

When you hit play for the first time, it may take a few minutes to load up the emulator, but the project (should!) build and deploy. You may need to enable elevated privileges for the emulator.



With that, your app should load up and you’ll see your holograms in front of you as they would appear on the device! You can learn more about the emulator over on the HoloLens developer site, as well as a bunch of other tutorials and resources for getting started building more complex applications with Windows Holographic. If you run into trouble deploying your apps, Kat Harris has a great post on common issues and fixes. If you’re looking for another resource to help with the setup process, Adam Tuliper has a blog post and video going into a little more depth about the underlying technologies surround HoloLens development.

Stay tuned for more holograms, coming soon to the blog!



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1 thought on “Setting up a Development Environment for HoloLens”

  1. C7210 says:

    hey kitty,nice to see you in the new article.

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